Call 911

"Civil courage (sometimes also referred to as "Social courage") is defined by many different standards. In general, the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to their death, injury or some other form of significant harm."

There’s something very special about firefighters.  Firefighters run toward what every instinct tells us to run away from.  Simply applying for the job shows a willingness to run toward the danger but it isn’t that easy.  Most still have to be trained and develop the ability to run toward danger while still being able to think; to run toward the fire while doing so with as much safety to oneself and others as is possible and still get the job done.  We should all learn to be just a little more like them.

“Someone call 911.”  You see even emergency personnel say this on TV shows all the time but those are actors speaking words created by writers.  When I was in emergency training, we were taught that general statement will either result in everyone calling 911 or no one calling 911 and usually the latter.  So we were taught to single someone out and say “YOU call 911 right now” and, if they don’t move instantly, pick another and say it to them; keep going until someone makes the call and do it while you proceed with whatever emergency care you can provide.  Still that takes at least one person who breaks from the shell shocked pack to say “YOU call 911” and it seems that is becoming more rare these days.

There’s this phenomenon called the bystander effect and another one called diffusion of responsibility.  Basically, they say that the more people who are around, the less any one of them is to react to an emergency.  With the world having more than doubled its population in my lifetime, I can see the negative impact of these phenomena spreading because there are simply more people around.

This morning I saw the story on the Today Show about a man stabbed who lay on the sidewalk for over an hour while more than 25 people walked by and only 2 even stopped and even they did NOTHING to help the man.  Good grief!  Explain it as phenomena all you want but I DON’T GET IT.  If I see an accident happen, I can’t NOT stop to at least provide my contact information as a witness.

Yet this latest case of walking by a man dying on the sidewalk makes at least three cases in the last year alone of people who died while others merely stood by that have been caught on tape and who knows how many cases that weren’t “caught on camera”.  Every time I see one of these stories I am reminded of Kitty Genovese who was stabbed repeatedly in her home neighborhood while those who heard what was going on mostly did nothing.  It appears to be true that the “did nothing” was exaggerated in the press reports.  Even so, they certainly did little to nothing.

I guess one can bet the odds that they will never be in such a situation and avoid learning to overcome those phenomena that allow one to stand by and do nothing but I will tell you that doing so risks more than you may realize.  We live in a world of daily hazards.  “According to statistics from the Aurora company in North Ridgeville, Ohio, at least 200,000 bathroom accidents occur each year in the U.S.. Accident in the bathroom is 70 percent of the accidents that occur at home.”  There is a great deal you can do to prevent accidents but you are never safe from them nor from the acts of other humans and the same independent critical thinking and willingness/wherewithal to act for others will help you help yourself.

As a child, I was taught in school the proper way to answer a phone, take a message, what to say or not say to a stranger who called, to be skeptical of callers even if I thought I knew who I was talking to.  I was also taught civics, the responsibilities that tag along with or perhaps lead the right to have rights.  As a teen, I was in Civil Defense and Police Explorers where I learned how to behave/respond more appropriately in emergencies from storms to nuclear attacks (admittedly, that latter was mostly a joke since we lived in “ground zero”) but I also learned how to react to a home fire and other more localized emergencies.  I think it is sad that we no longer teach many of these things in school, let alone after school because the biggest thing I learned was to keep my brain ON when confronted with an emergency; learned to modify that fight or flee response to think, decide, and act quickly and with deliberation.  Sometimes fleeing is indeed the proper response.

But I think these phenomena are merely exaggerations and excuses for people simply fleeing in the face confrontation, mostly because they’ve never been taught or learned to do otherwise.  It isn’t just learning it intellectually either, one must practice the skills and that means on a day to day basis; living your life awake and aware, knowing that every act or inaction really does affect others and yourself in big ways.  So here’s two stories to give you a little idea of how it can impact your life.

While on my condo board, when one of the gates would malfunction, and NO ONE called it in to the manager, I’d throw a raving fit on our email group about their apathy and how one of them was going to get hurt by one of those 1,000 pound steel gates.  Sure enough, eventually, someone who had driven past the malfunctioning gate and didn’t report it was hit by that gate when they returned.  Fortunately, just damage to their car but it was enough to get people’s attention and more people were willing to report gate malfunctions and other problems after that.

As a young adult, I was held at gunpoint by a drugged out guy and walked away relatively unscathed although his intent had been robbery and rape.  I was always good about locking my car doors even when I’m in the car.  This night, my husband was driving and my young son was asleep in the back seat.  We pulled into our driveway.  I popped my door open and scooted across the seat to give my hubby a smooch before getting out.  And suddenly a big guy with a gun pointed at us was opening my door, sliding into my seat, pushing me toward my husband.  It happens in the blink of an eye.  The gun was held to and pointed at my head within seconds and that made it largely my call of how to handle things.

This man made it clear he wanted money for more drugs and more.  He wanted us to drive out into the country.  I decided that was one thing we weren’t doing and started fast talking him.  He decided to have us pull into a subdivision and, having been persuaded that we had no money, decided he’d settle for me and let my husband and son go if I’d be cooperative.  I agreed and went silent and deliberately relaxed my muscles some while my husband gathered up my sleeping son and headed down the middle of the dark street as he’d been instructed to do.  I put up with being pawed until they were at a safe distance and then waited for my opportunity; using that brief time to think.

He laid the gun on the dash so he could use both hands.  I waited just a moment and then tried to snatch the gun with my right hand while grabbing the steering wheel to sound the horn with my left, knowing my horn would work even while the car was turned off.  As soon as he countered by trying to grab me with one hand and the gun with the other, I back fisted him in the face while clinging to that steering wheel – horn blasting away.  I could see my husband doing exactly what he should.  At the sound of the horn, he started screaming and running to the nearest home.  The gun was knocked off the dash onto the floorboard beneath our feet and he opened the door, grabbed me by my ponytail and dragged me from the car to force my release of the horn and so he could get the gun.  I hit the ground running and screaming.

I will never forget the sound of the bullets whizzing past me on either side as he popped off a few rounds in my direction before jumping back in the car, sliding across the seat and trying to start the car.  My husband had pulled the key slightly out on our old clunker and one had to get it “just right” to start the car so he was only able to bend the key in his efforts.  He then fled on foot.  I can still remember a part of me that heard those bullets and screamed “turn around, go kill him” and the other part of my brain that said “nope, this is good enough, feet keep going”.  I was instinctively running at an angle from the car to get some distance while still heading for a house door.  I’d seen porch lights coming on from the time I hit the horn and on and I headed for a house where the light had just come on.  I pounded on the door demanding they call the police.

I heard a man and woman arguing.  He saying to open the door, she saying no.  I screamed not to open the door, just call the police now and that’s exactly what they did.  The police got 2 calls that night.  One from that house and one from the house my husband had gone to.  People did step out after the police arrived but no one else picked up the phone and made a call on their own.  But for my own retraining to be able to think under emergency circumstances and my husband’s military training, this could have gone so much worse than it did.  As it was, I lost a tooth that had been surgically repaired early that day due to the sudden jerking of my head by the ponytail (ah, well, the dentist had warned me to avoid sudden head movements for 24 hours) and it took a few days for my hand to heal.  Apparently I’d held onto the wheel so tightly that the skin on one side three fingers had been shaved off while I was being dragged from the car.  I consider these minor injuries a great improvement over the alternative of having gone out to the country and robbed, raped, and all of us killed.

The man was never found but a later call to the police revealed he had jumped into another vehicle at a stop light and gotten a ride at gunpoint from near where we'd been to across town.  (Lock those doors folks; look around before exiting and don't unlock them until you exit!)  There was a call to the police about 2 hours later from a man.  He had come home to find his dog standing atop the doghouse barking.  He got his shotgun and went out to investigate only to see a man dash out of the doghouse and away but his clothing didn't match the description we'd given.  Yet another call of missing laundry but dropped clothing left behind that did match our description explained that.  While I feel for the driver who was kidnapped, I do take a bit of joy at the thought of this SOB running terrified, stealing laundry and changing in a backyard, hiding in a doghouse only to be confronted by the dog and his owner armed with a shotgun, and fleeing into the night all while coming down from whatever high he'd been on.  I have no doubt that, if he continued his criminal ways, he ended up dead or in prison.

I would urge all of you to learn and practice the abilities to keep your brains ON during an emergency so that you can make rational decisions even in the worst circumstances as you or your family members lives may depend upon it.  At least become the person who instinctively calls 911 for others rather than walking on by.  I know that I have saved at least 2 human lives, complete strangers to me, and several animal lives by relatively simple actions and I hope you get the chance to feel that special feeling too.  It may not be what makes firefighters choose to become firefighters but it surely must be one of the perks of the job.

Maybe, just maybe, if you conquer your fears enough to act in emergencies, you may want to go to the next step and become a leader.  It’s the same skills but often done with calm deliberation and the willingness to perhaps look foolish at least briefly to others. via HumaneWatch :)

If you can’t quite make the leap to leader, try to be amongst those who at least think fast enough on their feet to join early when it’s appropriate to do so.  The world simply won’t improve if we are mere sheeple who jump to follow others without thinking every step of the way; without being skeptical of what we hear and read; without critical thinking on a level that allows for emergency action when appropriate.  Being a follower can be a great thing but don’t follow the Pied Piper’s music off the into figurative death.  The pipe wasn’t magic but merely group think probably combined with diffused responsibility and bystander effect.  Our children are much to important to be left with a world created by such.

Our children do not deserve to inherit a world where we fear to lend aid as the man in the story did this morning for fear others will not do so when we need assistance.  He saw someone in danger and need and he ran to help.  He deserved the same from the 25 bypassing bystanders who needed only dial a phone.  So many say only to make that call.  I can't stop with that until we have Star Trek teleportation because, until then, there simply can't be enough on duty emergency personnel sufficiently close to be truly effective no matter how many we hire.  We are all members of a greater society and responsible for being able to reasonably and responsibly communicate with each other and do some amount of self and neighborly "policing" without overstepping our bounds to interfere with or impinge upon the rights of others.

We have all learned to lurk the net and email groups just a little too well.  Please do not lurk your life away.  The internet is a wonderful thing but remember to get out there and talk to your neighbors; be a full member of society whenever  you are out and about.  When I hear a neighbor's alarm go off, I'm out the door with telephone in hand.  If I see an accident, I will stop to lend aid.  If I see a neighbor being raided to take away their property, whether it's animals or some other property, I can assure you that I'll be headed over to investigate and I won't be likely to take the officer's "be on your way" lightly and knee jerk respond by walking away.

"In some countries civil courage is enforced by law; this means that if a crime is committed in public, the public is obliged to act, either by alerting the authorities, or by intervening in the conflict. If the crime is committed in a private environment, those who witness the crime must either report it to the authorities or attempt to stop it."  We aren't one of those countries and we also have some right to be civilly disobedient so we must never become one of those countries.  Yet our apathy is leading to statutes that mandate rendering aid.  "Good Samaritan statutes in the states of Minnesota and Vermont do require a person at the scene of an emergency to provide reasonable assistance to a person in need. At least five other states, including California and Nevada, have seriously considered adding duty-to-assist subdivisions to their good Samaritan statutes."  Can't we all just "man up" and do what we know is right by being each other's keepers just a wee bit instead of having a whole new group of poorly written laws that inevitably take away some more of our rights?

Oh, and remember to grab your cordless or cell phone on the way to the bathroom!

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