If you are absolutely certain that you are about to die, do something. Anything. Put down your goddamn phone and fight.
What struck me most about the horrific mass shooting in Orlando was the extreme helplessness of everyone around the shooter. I understand the mindset well: no one wants to be first into the fray and get themselves needlessly killed. Everyone hopes and prays that something – the police, security guards, some Rambo wannabe – will neutralize the gunman and stop the attack. I would probably react the same way. Duck and cover. Hide. Try not to be noticed. At first.
The mystery is why, when we are utterly convinced that we are going to be killed, we too often continue to do nothing… and get killed. Why?
What a terrible picture is revealed by texts from the nightclub in Orlando. Texts!
My first thought when I heard that people were texting during the attack was: What?! Who has time to text during an active shooting? Maybe it’s something to do with the Selfie Generation: after all, club patrons also had time to take some cellphone video as they all huddled together in a bathroom … where some of them were already bleeding from gunshot wounds… and hoping the gunman would not come back.
A young woman texted her parents around 2 AM: “Please, come get us now. Please, they shooting.” She also called her parents, telling them she was shot in the arm, and asking them to call the cops. She was killed.
One man’s text to his mother came in at 2:08 AM: “I’m gonna die.” He texted “I’m gonna die” again half an hour later, around 2:40 AM. He texted that the shooter was in the bathroom with them. He pleaded with his mother to send the police quickly “to come get us.” His last text arrived around 2:51. He was later counted among the dead.
It is horrible. Why did these patrons… and presumably others… continue to hide and text even though they were convinced they were about to die… even as the shooter is in the same room with them? Why did they plead with parents to call the police, instead of doing it themselves? The gunman was alone and had to stop to reload multiple times; why didn’t they fight back? Is it some kind of effect of entire lives lived through tiny screens? Is it because of helicopter parenting that leaves young adults unable to make decisions or act for themselves? Is it because of the nanny state – do we think we are somehow obligated to sit and wait to be rescued?
Let the psychologists debate those things. Whatever it was, it was fatal, and it’s time to change our mindset. Think: Flight 93. On the first three aircraft hijacked on 9/11, the passengers did not know… until far too late… that the outcome was certain death. But Flight 93 was the last one, and the passengers had been able to communicate with the outside world. They knew the situation they were in: if they did nothing, they were 100% certain to die. So they resolved to do something. They did not save their own lives, but they lost nothing for themselves; they were going to die anyway. And by foiling the hijackers’ plans, they gained something huge: they saved untold hundreds of other lives.
God forbid that any of us find ourselves in such a situation, but if we do… and if we really believe we are about to be killed… do something. Anything. Throw things at the shooter while simultaneously rushing forward. Kick, gouge, punch, choke. Turn anything into a weapon: bottles, dishes, flatware, chairs, toilet paper dispensers, your belt… your damn phone. When he needs to reload, rush him. Stop him. If you let him reload, you just gave him 30 more chances to shoot you. Yes, you may still be killed. You are likely to get hurt. But you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in that moment.