I remember April 20, 1999 very clearly. I was in high school. After school I had come home and decided to turn on CNN. I became a cable news junkie at an early age. In elementary school, our teachers rolled massive television sets on carts into our classrooms so we could watch CNN’s coverage of Operation Desert Storm. It seems like that was all we did for days.
That afternoon, I sat down in front of the television. On screen was aerial footage of teenagers running out of their school with their hands over their heads. Police in body armor checking each frightened teen as they ran past. Slowly I started to learn of the tragedy at Columbine High School that day.
Being in high school, this event made an impact on me despite the fact that I didn’t know anyone at CHS or had even set foot in the state of Colorado. At school the next day, the events in Columbine were all we talked about. Some years earlier in my community there had been a school shooting. In some ways this was not a new topic.
We didn’t really have class. Teachers sat up front of their classrooms and talked to us. In a way it was comforting because we all felt the same way, shocked and apprehensive. Eventually we got back to our lessons, but the students and the teachers just seemed to be on edge.
My high school had a resource officer. He was a city a police officer who reported daily in full uniform. He was as respected as a resource officer could be to a bunch of teenagers who were experimenting with thumbing their nose at authority. I always appreciated him and felt better when he was around. But in the end, he was just one man covering an entire school of hundreds of people on foot. Not an easy task.
In the days following the Columbine tragedy I realized that I needed to take some personal responsibility.
My safety was my responsibility.
Before this I was lazy by assuming that public servants would come to my rescue if I needed them, and they would always magically be there! But as we all know, try as they might, our heroic law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere, every day. We as citizens need to know how to avoid danger and keep safe. To start, we need to be aware of what is going on around us.
I had always had this nagging sensation when I would sit with my back to the door. I chalked it up to genetics since my grandfather was a Sheriff. Not ruling out genetics, I now understand I was becoming situationally aware all on my own. I was developing a sense that would keep me, and those around me, secure. I would later learn of Jeff Cooper’s “Color Codes.”
Cooper was a Marine who developed color codes corresponding with your situational awareness. I was living my life in condition yellow, enjoying what I was doing but also taking note of the people and situations around me.
What you need to do today is stop being lazy. You need to adjust your thinking to include what is going on around you. Your mindset is where security starts. Stop shrugging off your personal responsibility to keep you and your family safe. This means avoiding dark parking lots, knowing where the fire exits are in a restaurant and noticing that something may be wrong when a man wears a big coat on a 90° day. These are simple things you can coach your brain into noticing all the time while enjoying your daily life.
Once you take responsibility for your own security you begin to understand, as a father, that you are now responsible for your family's security. This can mean securing your home from an invasion, keeping fire extinguishers at the ready and teaching your children how to be safe when they are away from you.
Being secure doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take diligence. A little preparation on your part can keep you and your family safe while enjoying the world around you. Your family deserves to he happy and secure. Our brave law enforcement officers will be there for you when they are called. Make sure you know what to do keep your family from ever being caught in a situation where you have to call them.
In closing, while your mindset may be where physical security starts, I believe that a secure life resides in serving a loving God who will guide you and your family daily. Knowing my life is in the hands of a merciful God who loves me gives me strength and security every day. Without God, I would be truly insecure.
“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” Psalm 18:32 NIV
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