As I sat on a bus a few months ago, I recounted the previous day to my grandfather. “Suddenly, I heard gunshots, really loud and coming fast. I dove under the desk. Unfortunately, that would be concealment but not coverage, so I would still be vulnerable to bullets.”
I quickly realized that maybe I should stop talking about the counter-terrorism seminar before I incite panic or an investigation by Homeland Security.
The previous day, I faced a simulated scenario that came straight out of my worst nightmares. I curled up behind a desk, my ears ringing with the sounds of shooting. A few feet away, an armed assailant had a rifle trained on a crowd of people, mercilessly picking them off. Yes, the “shooter” was actually my Krav Maga instructor, Raz Chen, who is more of Batman instead of a Joker. Yes, the guns were fake, no one was actually dying, but it felt disturbingly real.
My heart pounded as I mentally pretended to call 911, silence my phone and leave it on and hope the police got the message.
In the crowd of victims were friends of mine, and I realized that if this had been real, I could not do anything to save them. I didn’t even know if I could save myself. There was no way past the shooter to the exit and my shelter provided concealment but was quite vulnerable to bullets. All I could hope is that the shooter didn’t notice me or ran out of bullets and that I didn’t get killed in the crossfire. As I crouched there, I had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I was trapped.
Do I really think it could happen to me?
No, I’m fairly confident the odds are in my favor it will remain theoretical. As dramatic and terrifying as mass shootings are when we watch them on the news, they are incredibly rare.
In 2016, of a US population of 322 million people, there were approximately 14,000 overall homicides, giving me a probability of. 0.00004% of being murdered by a fellow human being. I am more than 200,000 times more likely to die of medical malpractice (1 in 10!)
As for guns, as terrible as mass shootings are, they are still only 1.2% of gun deaths, as compared to 58.9% being suicides.
So why did I will spend a Sunday this month in such a seminar, and not writing my book? I don’t go to them in order to disarm terrorists since I’m not law enforcement. While I hope I can rise to any occasion, I’m not looking to be a hero. I just want to get home safe.
I go to these seminars, in order to. disarm the freeze mode in my mind for the ordinary emergencies of life, such as illness, natural disasters or accidents. Most of our seminar time isn’t about bringing nightmares to life but learning through games and drills useful skills to use in a crisis.
It’s something I definitely need. I have anxiety and PTSD, so I can easily spiral into a panic and freeze in place when in crisis. If there was a fire, or someone I loved was injured (or a thousand other scenarios) I fear I would not be able to assist those I love most. I come to the seminars to learn how to push the stress aside so that when things go haywire, I am ready to “flip the switch,” and react.
Training for the worst-case scenario allows me to scale back the response for lower-level emergencies. By testing myself under pressure, I know I am capable of doing much then I think when the stress of life gets to me.
I also go to develop my team-building skills. Socializing has always been hard for me, but nothing brings people together than a sense of shared purpose. Through training in class, and in seminars, my fellow students have become my family. I know I can rely on them and trust them with my life and safety.
August 25th marks my fifth seminar. I’m confident my skills have improved since my last one and I’m excited to see what surprises Raz has waiting for my friends and I. I have no doubt he will scare us silly and prepare us well.
I know I am walking into the class with a new sense of confidence. I don’t know what lies ahead for me, but I know one thing. I am stronger and better equipped to face times of stress. Plus, as you can see, it does make for some very entertaining and affirming time with friends, and good stories to tell those who didn’t come.
Totally worth it.