As with most significant tragedies, certain details and images stick with you. A year ago, my hometown came under attack – a terrorist attack to be exact. On April 15, 2013, 264 people were injured, and three were killed during one of the largest yearly events in Massachusetts, the Boston Marathon. I remember the images vividly; smoke, blood, chaos, hysteria; all of this occurring in the heart of the city I called home.
Three days later, the FBI took over the bombing investigation, which led to a manhunt including thousands of local, state, and federal police officers. A shootout would follow, leaving one police officer dead, one of the suspects dead, and 16 police officers injured. The mayhem would end later in the evening of April 19th, after a private citizen found the remaining suspect in his backyard, and federal and local law enforcement moved in to apprehend him after a tense standoff.
For many in Boston, the scars from this incident are still fresh. As the 2014 Boston Marathon approaches, images abound of runners training for the big race, as well as pictures of police, training to be equipped for what they may face this year.
When the bombs went off at about 2:49 PM last year, I felt like I was a world away. I was in West Virginia, on a range training local law enforcement. I remember looking down at my phone on a break and seeing text messages and missed calls from friends across the country, friends in the city, and friends that were on duty that day. I soon started to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what had happened, and I felt helpless.
Today, as I write this, Iâ€™m even further away than I was last year. I’ve since moved from Boston, to Oklahoma City, another major city that knows all too well the devastation and aftermath of homemade explosives. In my 29 years living in Boston, I never paid much attention to the Marathon, but this year will be different. From what I’ve been told by friends back home, Boston Police have strict orders of what is and is not allowed at the Marathon this year. There will be NO bags allowed this year at all, which includes backpacks, hand bags, suitcases, duffel bags and hydration packs. No containers capable of carrying more than 1 liter of liquid, and no props, costumes, baby strollers or any item measuring larger than 5x15x5 inches.
There will be more than 3,500 officers stationed along the 26.2 mile long Marathon path this year. Most will have the haunting images of the tragedies from last year replaying in their head, along with the new training they’ve received. They’ve been trained to be ready for any type of violence that may come their way. Or have they? Even with all the new restrictions put in place, and increased training, there is still a large margin for error.
Are they really ready? What if the concept of “readiness” is nothing more than a misrepresentation that makes them feel more confident about their skills? Do they really think that the skills they learned in a training exercise will be executed with the same swiftness and ease that it was in a controlled arena? This is something we must take into consideration in our everyday lives. When we look at the chaos that erupted last year, itâ€™s hard to be confident that anyone at this yearâ€™s Boston Marathon will be “ready” for a new type of terror threat. A better question is, are they prepared to deal with the worst possible outcome? I hope the answer is yes. Being ready, and being prepared are two totally different concepts that in the world of self-defense, we must know the difference between.
Being “ready” is our desire to flawlesslyÂ perform the skills we learned in isolationÂ when they are needed most. Newsflash: hope is NOT a method. We prepare ourselves for worst case scenarios by applying skills we’ve learned in isolation to the widest set of possible circumstances we may encounter (Plausibility Principle). Last year, the scope of possibilities that the Boston Police trained for was Iâ€™m sure MUCH smaller than it is this year. While there is no sure way to prepare ourselves for EVERY circumstance we may encounter, it is important to keep an open mind in regards to the fact that sometimes our worst nightmares can come true.
Most instances may be out of our control. Surely a bombing or plane hijacking are things that we could hardly ever be fully prepared for. However, there are circumstances in our lives that we CAN control, and with proper preparation and training, have a better outcome of surviving. When it comes to self-defense, a lot of people will “train themselves into a box,” meaning they will get REALLY good at certain skills, and never work outside that space or comfort level. Itâ€™s important to remember that the skills we practice in isolation may not translate well in real life when they aren’t choreographed. On April 15, 2013, thousands of trained law enforcement officers found out what it was like to be unprepared for a wide set of circumstances and they were caught off guard.
Stay smart, stay vigilant, and remember to train for the world around you.