Standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowded train car at Denver International Airport, I looked around at my fellow passengers to make my usual assessments: In a disaster scenario where we are trapped on this train for an extended period of time, would that person become a leader, a useful team player or someone I’d have to kill and eat?
I was very matter-of-factly sharing these thoughts with The Hubby – he agreed with most of my evaluations – when we noticed that some of the folks nearby were giving us the wary stink eye. (Not as critical as a hairy stink eye but still quite skeptical). We had to consider the idea that perhaps not everyone does this mental walkthrough in a crowd?
Hmm. Okay … but then, how do you know where you want to stand on the train? Do you base that decision purely on which spot is closest to the exit doors? Or, God forbid, do you just stand wherever there is a free space???? Obviously, that kind of thinking is what gets you categorized as “food.”
A couple years ago we had an experience that surprised us in the same way today’s realization did. We were sitting alongside Boulder Creek, just off the path, down near the library. We were watching ducks, reading and generally enjoying another perfect, sunny spring day in paradise. Then we heard a gunshot. It came from under a bridge about half a block east of us. A minute later, two policemen ran by, heading in the direction of the gunshot and a few seconds after that came a barrage of gunfire, 18 shots.
Instant chaos. People all around us were screaming and running and calling loved ones in a panic. A woman next to us grabbed her little boy and hid with him behind a boulder. She whisper-screamed to us, “Get down! There’s a shooter! Get down here with us!” But The Hubby and I just stood very still, keeping our focus on the entire area around us, waiting and watching. Because we knew you don’t run in this situation – you’re not going to be able to run faster than the bullets if they’re coming your way. Instead, you assess where the gunman is, where he’s going, whether or not he is alone and where you can most easily hide or otherwise avoid him/them and any gunfire. If you run away willy nilly out in the open without analyzing the situation, you may be running straight at a second gunman. We also knew that two policemen had run by, with one gun each. We heard 18 identical shots coming from two identical guns, nine shots each which meant they both emptied their guns. There was no return fire from the original gun. All of this indicated that this particular event was most likely over. We waited. After a couple minutes we heard sirens, the crowds dispersed and we walked back to our car.
We marveled at how everyone had reacted. Why didn’t they know this stuff? Had they never been shot at before? Had our lives and our upbringing truly that different from everyone else’s? Apparently, yeah.
We’re both from Texas so we had been around guns all our lives. I learned to shoot when I was four or five years old. My Grandpa would take me out to the back porch of his house, a former one-room schoolhouse, in Valley Mills, and we would shoot prickly pear with a little .22 rifle. The rifle was little but I was even littler so the kick would always knock me down the first shot, but I'd get right back up and do it again. I got pretty good at it. My Dad was, and still is, a helluva shot – he can take down an antelope in one shot with the naked eye at distances that everyone else needs a scope for. Same with my brother, he’s like a special ops sniper-level marksman. When he snaps and ends up on a clock tower someday, it’s gonna be BAD.
The Hubby had childhood friends who were hunters, some of them professionally, and he dabbled in the thug life a bit in his teens so he had far more experience than I did with being face to face with a firearm. Because our hometown, Kerrville, was in the heart of the Hill Country, most of our high school parties were outdoors, gathered around a bonfire on top of a hill. Countless parties ended with the neighbors firing shots over our heads and this was perfectly acceptable -- how else were you supposed to know when the party was over? One time, the bullets came flying directly at us, hitting the tree just to my left at about my chest level as I ran screaming through the field with my buddies, Laura and Liz. That was much less acceptable. Afterwards, we replayed the entire event, second by second, scrutinizing what we had done wrong. Running? Wrong. Wearing high heels to a hilltop party? Cute, but wrong. Holding hands while trying to escape? So wrong. We recreated the scenario in our minds, making better choices, over and over again until it felt ingrained. And apparently it was because I never made those same mistakes again.
The next time I got shot at, I knew what to do. And I hope that when the apocalypse comes while I’m stuck on the train in DIA, I’ll know what to do then as well. And who to eat.