As hard as it is to stomach the very graphic video footage (depicted below, viewer discretion is advised!) of the shooting deaths of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and WDBJ photographer Adam Ward, I felt compelled to watch it. As a defensive-minded person who often contemplates the various threats we are exposed to in today’s society, I wanted to see if there was anything I could learn. What lessons can I glean from the tragic and untimely deaths of these two young professions?
The following five things came to mind:
1. Evil Exists!
After watching the video, I was nauseous. I felt like I had just got off a rollercoaster ride at Six Flags. My stomach had that bunched-up feeling that makes me simultaneously queasy and anxious. Then I became angry, asking myself an obvious question: Why? Why the hell did that son-of-a-b*tch murder two innocent people in cold blood?
There is no real satisfying answer to that question. No rational motive or justification for why that sociopath did what he did. What I am left with is a wake up call of sorts, another terrorizing reminder that evil exists in the world. To speak plainly, there are bad people that are determined to inflict harm on innocents.
Given this reality, we have two choices: we can either prepare ourselves to confront evil or we can hope to God it never rears it’s ugly head at us.
2. Know Your Enemies
It was reported that the gunman had felt slighted by the victims. At one point, all three worked together at the news station. For reasons that aren’t quite clear yet, the gunman was eventually fired from WDBJ. It appears, he believed that Parker and Ward may have been somewhat responsible for his departure.
Most of this is speculation, of course, but the gunman did send a manifesto to ABC News, which has since been turned over to police, that most likely articulates his grievances. As I mentioned above, it doesn’t matter what is reasoning was, there is no justification for gunning down two innocent people.
But the lesson here, I think, is to every now and then take an inventory of folks that may have a beef with you. Who is angry with me? Who doesn’t like me? Who holds a grudge against me? Who do I know that is mentally unstable? Who do I know that has a history of violent behavior or who has expressed violent ideations?
I feel that by knowing who my potential enemies are I am more apt to recognize them when/if we cross paths. I can also give the people I care about a heads up if I feel that this person may pose a real danger.
I should say that it’s not clear whether the victims saw this coming or even knew that the shooter was upset with them. The early indication is that they had no idea, nor is the reason to believe they should have expected such a merciless attack. That said, I think we’re all better off if we know who stands to potentially threaten our safety.
3. Head on a Swivel
“Situational awareness” are buzz words that get thrown around a lot in the firearms and tactical communities. What it means, basically, is that one is hyper-aware of one’s surroundings. I say “hyper aware” because we all have to have at least a basic awareness of our environment to function.
When one possesses a high degree of situational awareness one can anticipate human behaviors and responses before they occur. For example, it’s the difference between having a feeling that someone is behind you versus knowing that the person behind you is a large adult male who is not only breathing heavily but carrying an object in his right hand as he approaches. The greater the detail one has observed from a situation, the more one can predict what will happen next.
In watching the footage it’s rather evident that Ward and Parker were fully engaged in what they were doing. They weren’t paying attention to what else was going on around them. Realistically, though, why would they? They were busy working and there was no reason to be on guard. It was super early in the morning, they were at a place, a manmade lake, that had almost no foot-traffic at that hour, what did they have to be afraid of?
Yet, they were both ambushed. It’s definitely not their fault. But if I am to learn anything from this incident, it’s that I need to work on my situational awareness, particularly at times when I’m conditioned to be fully engaged at a task, e.g. while working.
4. Politicizing a Tragedy
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, once said.
There’s no doubt that this incident will be used to push an anti-gun agenda. Whether you find that to be tasteless or immoral or outrageous, is besides the point. The fact is that it’s already happening.
The key to not let those in your sphere of influence fall victim to the pathos that is to come. A deranged man killed Parker and Ward. He is responsible for their deaths. The weapon he used to perpetrate the act is irrelevant.
5. Time to Take Action
As I said, this incident is yet another wake up call. It’s a reminder that if you haven’t thought seriously about your personal defense posture then now is the time to take action. I’m not just talking to gun owners, but to everyone. Ask yourself: What tools do I have at my disposal or on my person to confront or thwart off an attacker? What is my plan if I’m attacked? What can I do to improve my overall personal preparedness?
Sometimes the little changes or tweaks we make can have life-saving consequences. Maybe you’ll try to work on your situational awareness or spend more time thinking about and identifying potential threats (Can they be helped? Should you contact the authorities?). Or, maybe you’ll make a more serious commitment and start carrying a self-defense tool. Either way, a small improvement or a larger lifestyle change (like buying a firearm), do something!
As the old saying goes, “It’s better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
I just want to offer my condolences to the victims’ families. I also want to wish a speedy recovery to Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was also shot during the attack. Reports say that she is out of surgery and is now recovering.
As for the gunman, it was reported Wednesday evening that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A cowards death. I can only say that I solemnly hope he rots in hell.