Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We Need Heroes

Yesterday an everyday kind of hero saved lives at a community college near us. The CyFair* campus of Lone Star Community College is the one closest to us (15 minutes in good traffic), and all three of my children took classes there. At last count, 14 people were injured in a mass stabbing. Four of them were life-flighted to a hospital with a trauma center; two of these were in critical condition (at this writing no one has died). Another eight or so were taken by ambulances or cars to nearby hospitals for treatment of lacerations. A couple more were checked at the scene and declined the need for additional medical help. So far I haven’t heard the names of any victims; that info might get around in the next day or so. But I think I would have heard if anyone I knew, or their children, was hurt. It may be that there won’t be many degrees of separation, however. This was too close to home.
Life Flight at Lonestar CyFair College
photo from ABC13 News
One of my favorite people, Elaine, teaches there, and I knew her schedule included Tuesdays. So when I first heard the news of mass stabbings at Lone Star CyFair, I texted her while at stoplights, needing to know that she was safe—and her husband who also teaches and works at the college.
By the time I got home, five minutes later, I still hadn’t heard from her, so I tried Facebook, to see if she’d get the message sooner; I was starting to worry, even though five minutes isn’t a very long wait time for a text message return. Within another minute she had texted that she was safe. We followed up shortly, and I learned from her that the incident happened right outside her classroom. She arrived right after the attacker fled, so she wasn’t in danger, but, as she said, the scene she came upon
was sobering. One of my students was holding paper towels to a girl's throat. It was in the Health Science center, and a lot of people seemed to know how to administer first aid while waiting for the paramedics. In retrospect, I'm rather impressed.
The perpetrator had apparently started slashing people randomly in the building and outside, as students were moving between classes. One of Elaine’s students saw him start to run and figured out what was going on, and immediately took off after the guy and tackled him. Others joined in and helped apprehend him until police arrived, preventing any further injuries.
It takes a special person to act that way on instinct. He could have backed away. He could have gone toward the injured to help them (others did). He could have called 911 (others already were doing that). All of those would be considered natural and positive behaviors. But he ran toward the danger, because he saw that was the most urgent need at the moment. And seeing the need, he had to act. We are fortunate to have heroes like him among us.
This is Elaine’s post Tuesday evening:
I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that I am SO PROUD of my students, especially the ones who aided the victims and helped tackle the assailant. For every act of horror there are countless acts of love. Be part of the love.
Everyone was put on lockdown almost immediately afterward (including nearby public schools), until there was certainty there was only one perpetrator, the one who had been apprehended. And then the campus was evacuated for the day. I’m thinking the next time Elaine’s class meets, they all deserve to be honored with some sort of medal.
I don’t know if we’ll learn a motive. Reports I’m hearing are that the assailant was odd; people knew him as the guy who carried a monkey sock puppet around with him and talked to it. That seems to indicate mental illness was involved. He admitted to police that he’d had fantasies of stabbing people to death for much of his life, and had been planning this assault for some time.
I don’t know how we identify the dangerously mentally ill before they act out, but that does seem to be the common factor among all the recent such incidents.
For now, we are grateful there were no deaths, and we pray for a full and speedy recovery for all the victims. And we pray that a sense of safety and peace can return to those who were traumatized. Special thanks, after the quick action of students, to the campus police, and to paramedics and other emergency personnel who did their job quickly and thoroughly.
I had intended to post about a different hero today. On Monday we lost a great lady in Britain’s former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. But I’ll save honoring her for another post.
I'm adding this information one week later: April 16, 2013 (the day after the Boston Marathon bombin). I wanted to correct a piece of information that was initially incorrect. The assailant at CyFair was not the person who carries around a monkey sock puppet; apparently such a person does exist (and probably is looked at even more cautiously now), but he was not involved and there is no reason to believe he intends violence. The actual perpetrator, as far as we know so far, did not show outward signs of his mental illness, although he admits to violent fantasies from an early age. So the question of how to identify such potential criminals is still without answers.

One more addendum: My friend Elaine honored her heroic class with a batch of brownies as they debriefed during their next class time.
* CyFair is a shortened name for Cypress-Fairbanks, the name of this northwest section of the greater Houston area.

No comments:

Post a Comment