When I first heard the news, I was over 500 miles away from home in the backwoods of High View, West Virginia, teaching a defensive pistol class with a mixture of law enforcement and non-law enforcement students. My mind immediately started to race as I excused myself from the firing line and started contacting friends and family. When texts and callsÂ weren’tÂ returned immediately, I started getting knots in my stomach and a feeling of helplessness.
Waking up the next morning, and seeing the headlines on the newspaper that was stuffed under my hotel room door, everything felt surreal. ThisÂ wasn’tÂ NYC, this was MY backyard. I immediately began to think back to 9/11. I felt a sense of urgency to get back home, to help my friends who were in the middle of it, and render whatever aid and advice I could. Countless emails and texts and messages via social media begged me to get home, saying that people would feel â€œsaferâ€ if I were there. I felt angry, I felt helpless, I wanted to go home, butÂ didn’tÂ know if I should. Throughout the day, I had been with Rob Pincus as he gave countless phone interviews to national news outlets about his thoughts on the bombings. Even though I felt a strong desire to fly home, cut my trip short, and be at the sides of my friends and family during the disaster in Boston, I was on the Personal Defense Network Spring Training Tour for a reason, and that reason had never been so clear. The lessons I would teach to civilians and armed professionals over the next few days would make them safer, so they knew what to do in the face of an ambush situation.
Remembering the 9/11 attacks, and subsequent attacks on defenseless Americans since then, I realized why I was in West Virginia, doing what I do. The style of training my company offers is called counter ambush training. We offer the real world exploration of both WHY and HOW you should structure your personal defense training to deal with a worst case scenario ambush situation. Too often people fall into the false mindset of â€œpreparednessâ€. We get lulled into a sense of believing if we are always in â€œcondition redâ€ we will be ready for any danger that comes our way.
The truth is, itÂ doesn’tÂ matter if you are condition red with orange polka dots and yellow stripes, you can never be fully prepared for an ambush. We use three adjectives to describe these incidents: threatening, chaotic, and surprising. I canâ€™t count how many times I heard those exact three words used over and over by countless news sources to describe the events of the Marathon. Two men were able to shut down an entire city, and spread panic and fear as they exchanged gun fire with law enforcement. We need to look at the events of that day, and even the entire week, and figure out what the takeaways are, so that we can understand what we could do to make ourselves safer if presented with a similar situation.
So what are some of the things we can learn from the bombing? One of the lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombing is accepting the reality that this could actually happen to you. Living in a first world country, many people take their safety for granted. One thing we cannot do is fall into the mindset of â€œit can’t happen to meâ€. Iâ€™m sure there are over 200 people today who thought that same thing on Marathon Monday.
Another lesson would be training. Yes, I teach defensive firearms training, but guns and knives donâ€™t beat bombs. Iâ€™m talking specifically about medical training (more than a CPR course). Many people showed amazing bravery as they ran TO the blasts, through the smoke and fire, and not AWAY from it. I read reports of people using their belts to tourniquet dismembered appendages, and using the shirts off their backs to stop profuse bleeding. One of the major causes of death during any type of serious trauma is blood loss. What is the most effective way to stop massive blood loss? Direct pressure. Take a trauma management class; it could save your life or potentially an innocent bystanderâ€™s life. Quick and dirty â€œmedicineâ€ in the face of disaster no doubt saved countless lives that day, but what would have happened if those brave people had instead ran away from the blasts? Do you have the necessary knowledge and equipment to save your own life? A tourniquet and some type of compression bandage should become parts of your EDC. These are small, lightweight items that can easily be tucked into a jeans pocket or backpack.
What else can we do? Have a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup to that backup plan. Whenever I go somewhere that there may be a large crowd, or Iâ€™m unfamiliar with, I take note of the exits, and possible avenues of â€œescapeâ€. Once the first bomb went off, many people began running â€œawayâ€ from the danger. Running away from a perceived threat could mean you are potentially running towards another, unknown threat. One thing to avoid during the mass hysteria is running towards an unknown area. We have a tendency to flee in groups as we feel safety in numbers, but the bad guys know this and they plan accordingly, so we should too. Taking note of your surroundings is always a good thing, knowing additional ways out of a crowded area is even better. Looking for alternate means of escape and evasion could be the key to your survival. All transportation was shut down following the blasts. You need to think worst case scenario, how will I get out of this situation if I donâ€™t have access to my vehicle or some type of public transportation?
One of the biggest lessons we learned from this tragic event is that the face of terror is constantly changing. ItÂ doesn’tÂ necessarily need to wear a black mask, a turban, or a thick beard. ItÂ doesn’tÂ need to carry a gun, or fly a plane. Sometimes it may have a teenagerâ€™s face, a backwards baseball cap and walk beside you in a crowd. Tomorrow or the next day, it will surely look differentâ€¦again. We need to realize that the issues of terrorism and ambush attacksÂ aren’tÂ going to go away any time soon. One thing I heard Rob repeat, which will resonate in my head every day I teach a defensive class from now on is this: â€œMy company deals with making people safer in their everyday lives. I wish IÂ didn’tÂ have to do it, and that evilÂ didn’tÂ exist, but it does, and as long as it does,Â I’veÂ made the commitment to teach people the skills they need to survive an ambush type encounter.”
Be safe, be vigilant, train hard and often. #BostonStrong
Read more: Boston Marathon Bombing, One Year Later