This Is Your Time

Virginia Tech and Training for Eternity

By Hunter Baker Posted in Comments (13) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

I remember going for an evening walk with my young wife some years ago. As we strolled past a heavily wooded yard with a house barely visible, I suddenly heard the menacing growl of a very obviously big and mean dog. My immediate reaction was to run. The big muscles in my legs flexed and fired. The only thing that stopped me was my wife's anguished cry, "Hunter, don't leave me!" I forced down the fear impulse, backed up and put myself between her and the threatening sound. We walked on and nothing happened.

When Professor Librescu, an old man, a septuagenarian whose body had been through the terrors of the Holocaust, spotted a terrible threat he pushed his weight against a door and tried to keep a killer from murdering his students. All but two of the students and Librescu got away. In an email exchange yesterday, one of our Redstate contributors wondered why able-bodied young men would have chosen to run instead of coming to the assistance of their heroic professor.

Read on . . .

Thinking of my own experience and looking at what happened in that besieged classroom in Virginia, I think I know the answer. Liviu Librescu had seen death up close much earlier in life. He very probably saw his friends and neighbors killed and had many opportunities to measure his own reactions in light of right and wrong, valor and heroism. It is no surprise to me that such a man would resist rather than run. I suggest to you that he knew exactly who he was. The young men in that classroom were probably a lot like me in the situation with the dog. They were untested and had probably never been in serious physical danger. More important, they had probably never stopped to consider what they would expect of themselves in a life and death situation.

There are a couple of lessons that come to mind. The one that many conservatives will point to is that we have a culture that does not successfully impute manliness. We already knew the ethic of dedication to wife and children had slipped badly. We knew less well that we weren't raising boys with expectations of self-sacrifice and protectiveness toward others. But this is the smaller of the two lessons.

The greater lesson is that we should all take pains to reflect on who we want to be and what we really believe. It was once common to speak of the examined life. That phrase fell under the massive heap of self-help materials and endless reflection on why we don't have a better sex life, more money, and a better job. But the examined life goes deeper than that. It comes down to knowing who you are. Without it, you will almost inevitably run in the face of danger, quail before the bully, and excel in self-justification after the fact rather than action in the relevant frame.

Jeff made the point in his post that none of us know how we will react in these situations. I believe he is right about that, but I am at least equally sure that we can prepare ourselves for the event and drastically increase the chance that we WILL do what we merely hope we would.

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This Is Your Time 13 Comments (0 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

I think the students that jumped out of windows DID honor the professor's greatest wish. The professor's greatest wish was to be the only person in the room harmed.

"During my lifetime, all our problems have come from mainland Europe, and all the solutions from the English-speaking nations across the world." - Thatcher

And we don't know whether the rampage might have been suddenly halted had several young men jumped to the professor's aid.

No one ever knows how they will react until the moment comes. For most of us, the first time it happens will be the toughest. For me, I was fortunate to be someone who had been there before and I could take my strength from him. It gets better the next time. Just last week I was helping a friend move a sailboat from Key West to Fort Walton Beach and Tuesday nite he ran us smack into a storm in the Gulf. There were moments when the outcome was in doubt.

There is a saying I heard years ago that has stuck with me: You stand where God puts you. Professor Librescu stood where God put him.

Fortuna Favet Fortibus

Short, but thoughtful post. Thanks. I have two stories that I think relate to this post.

About a decage ago, I had a horrible break-in (crazy guy on meth was looking to kill his wife and got the wrong house). I woke up to the guy charging me and beating pretty well. He left, with some help, after I - well - gave him a pair of scissors. He did quite a number on me, though.

Until that day, I have to say, I was probably more inclined to run or hide than to fight. Not anymore.

Two years ago a female colleague and I were in Chicago. A rather large man approached us with the "hand in his pocket - follow me into this ally" trick. I immediately yelled "run", grabbed the guy, and considered the situation a fight for my life. In less than a minute the police were pulling me off our would-be attacker and cuffing him. He had a knife in his pocket, but it was closed, and I reacted so fast he didn't have time to pull it out.

I don't tell these stories with pride or judgment. In fact, if anything, I am slightly embarrassed to say that there was a time in my life that I might not have responded admirably and without any thought to physical danger. I'm just relating to the post. I don't know if the change in me was one reflection could have produced, but I hope so.

In a few of the rooms there WERE men who barricaded the doors- even being wounded. So it is not like we don't have heroes. And some of those murdered were cadets who were going to become military officers.

United States Air Force

The day even the rawest recruit won't stand up to put his life between death and those he has taken an oath to protect is a sad day indeed...

I say this to all my recruits:
"This uniform, the suit you would deign to wear serves primarily as a target. It tells those who would kill the people you know and love, 'Shoot me, first! Shoot me in hopes that you run out of bullets with which to shoot those behind me. You can only get to them, through me.'"

Ignorance is the lack of knowledge.
Retardation is an inability to correct that lack.
Stupidity is the conscious refusal to correct that lack.

As far back as the 1950's, our schools have been turning out students who have been socialized to believe that there is nothing that they can do when violence occurs. The only acceptable response is the "sheep huddle" - turn away from the attacker and baa.

Those students, if properly socialized, could have taken action to save themselves but, without the background knowledge of self defense, could not think of anything but "playing dead" and holding the door shut.

It is not their fault - it is their parents and teachers fault that these students have been turned into sheep. Even without guns, the students could have fought back and killed or captured the attacker. An armed citizen would have made it easier but a number of students throwing laptops and books at the head of the gunman while rushing to close with him would have significantly lessened the total casualty count.

You don't cut in run in the middle of a massacre.

Looks like under 30 to me. Or am I not playing tis betting game right?

Ignorance is the lack of knowledge.
Retardation is an inability to correct that lack.
Stupidity is the conscious refusal to correct that lack.

When your own twisted logic is used against you isn't it?

This "blame the victim" mentality is just sickening.

" in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
Abe Lincoln

Hunter - very very nice - even handed, honest, wise about the effect of experience and of knowing oneself... a refreshing change from the hand-wringing on the left and from the simplistic "I wudda taken 'im" arm-chair quarterbacking and blaming the victims on the right. What the students and staff of VT faced was far more elemental and human than the shallow and political treatment some give it. Great post.

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