One Saturday not long ago I attended an emergency response training session in my community. Offered by our local fire department, it seemed a proper way to update the First Aid training I had received a long time ago.
This session went beyond the splint and bandage knowledge that was required of a Cub Scout den mother, and the practical procedures I practiced when young children were in my household. Instead, the focus was on disaster response, ways to recognize and respond to medical distress, and what to do first at the scene of a serious accident.
It was eye-opening training.
Our small group practiced hands-only CPR, how to use an AED (the automatic external defibrillator commonly available in public places today), how to apply a proper tourniquet, and what to do prior to the arrival of trained emergency response teams. We were also instructed about how not to make a medical emergency worse by doing the wrong thing.
It was good information; I recognized a need to update my home medical supplies, and resolved to install life-saving first aid kits in my vehicles. I reaffirmed my desire to be prepared. It’s only sensible.
The disturbing part of the session came later.
A local police officer was our no-nonsense instructor. A member of our city’s well-trained emergency response team, the police officer who had once given me a ride home when my car stalled spoke about how to survive an active shooter situation.
She pulled no punches.
Public discussion centers around prevention rather than survival. Sadly, in the modern world, everyone is at risk, and no place is immune.
Awareness is key. Quick action is imperative.
I came away from that training session with an increased sense of vulnerability, but also with heightened determination. I no longer take safety for granted. Identifying escape routes is not paranoia; being watchful in public places is smart. Surviving extraordinary events, including airplane crashes and natural disasters, sometimes hinges on preparedness, immediate response, and will.
That is fact.
So, why this, and why now?
Last week, mid-week, in the middle of the night, my neighborhood was suddenly brightened with the flashing lights of multiple police cruisers. Officers patrolled the street and it was obvious that something uncommon had occurred. It was not until yellow police tape was strung at a residence across the street that a vague sense of foreboding became palpable.
Not fear exactly, but beyond curiosity.
A police barricade was set up at the end of our quiet cul de sac, and neighbors’ departures and arrivals were noted.
Later, when local news teams set up in my front yard, then knocked on my door with cameras and microphones turned on, we learned that a shooting had occurred, and that a neighbor had been transported to the hospital in serious condition.
No one in the neighborhood commented publicly; the incident was only briefly mentioned on one local television channel. Details were not forthcoming. Unknown strangers were apparently involved.
The yellow crime scene tape and street barricades were removed later in the day. The home across the street was quiet and empty.
It may never be quite the same, but life on my street has returned to its normal cadence. Neighbors come and go. We smile and wave, set the garbage out on the appointed day, check the mail, and walk the dog.
Although my neighborhood is pleasant, we are not well-acquainted with our neighbors. The family across the street was new to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, we had not ever been properly introduced. We do not even know their names.
We honestly do not know what happened that night. We may never know. We do not know if the family has returned permanently, or if they ever will. They too come and go, sometimes at odd hours. We notice. We feel a loss. We do not know the condition of the man who was shot.
This lack of connection is perhaps the greatest loss, the biggest concern, I have a sense that in the not-so-distant past, residents of a neighborhood would have stood together in such circumstances. Neighbors would have comforted and consoled their neighbors. Perhaps that type of solidarity might have prevented the incident, whatever it was.
We do not know.