As a father, the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut, shook me to the core. It was a reminder to all of us that horrible things can happen, they can happen without warning, and they can happen anywhere.
But there is another aspect to these tragedies that happen all too often – as much as we hear about them on the news, as horrible as they are, they are still rare events.
Still, when things like a bomb scare at an elementary school happens here, we feel a little different and we feel a little less safe. The good news is that it was a very destructive hoax – it wasted the valuable time of district personnel, teachers, students, parents, emergency services and our broader community.
If this had been a drill about emergency preparedness, I think the district passed with flying colors. They were able to get the communication to the parents and the community. The teachers and students, at least, handled it without panicking.
So why am I writing all of this? As I was reading the comments of my favorite local newspaper columnist, I realized just how much we allow these incidents to destroy our sense of well-being, safety and security.
The columnist writes, “It should be noted that had this been a true terrorist threat of some sort, our children were incredibly vulnerable as they sat on the lawn outside Rainbow City.
“Understandably, police and fire resources were directed to the school building itself to make sure it was safe for students to return … but had the bomb threat been a ruse to empty the school and put our children in harm’s way, we’d be second-guessing ourselves forever…
“The point here is that there was no ‘protection’ of any sort at Rainbow City … there was no police presence there or in the parking lot at the Davis Arts Center or along Covell Boulevard, which runs just a few yards to the north of where the kids were gathered … perhaps it has to do with police staffing concerns that need to be addressed or perhaps it was simply an oversight …
“All I know for sure is that the site where the kids were happily waiting out this several hour interruption in their school day was not secure … at the very least it’s something we need to talk about …”
The columnist later adds that “while most of us with children at North Davis Elementary probably felt down deep that there was no bomb planted at the school, it did remind us of just how vulnerable all our schools are …”
Or are they?
As one person noted, very few kids ever get killed in school shootings. One person posted, the chances of a shooting incident at a K-12 in the US in any given year is about 1:54000. Compare that to the fact that on “average in 2012, 92 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day in 30,800 fatal crashes” and we may be worried about the wrong danger here.
Our kids are vulnerable, but they are probably more vulnerable to the unsafe driving around our schools than a remote terrorist threat.
This year alone, I have been hit once at the Montgomery parking lot by a parent who suddenly decided to speed up BACKWARDS to get a parking spot. I saw her coming but could not move in time to avoid her. Luckily the kids were in class and no one was hurt.
A few weeks later, the same thing almost happened again. This time I was able to honk on the horn while the other driver insisted the car had the right to back up to get a spot that they had passed in the parking lot.
Just this week my dash cam caught video of a driver in a car that decided to jump the stop sign at the three-way stop outside Montgomery, despite the fact there were cars at each point along the way – I was starting my left turn and the car had to swerve as it illegally sped through the intersection. Unfortunately no front license plate means we will never know who did it, most likely – but kids in the back of my car were put at risk, not by some terrorist but by some impatient driver.
The columnist mentions the possibility of a ruse to lure the children out in front of the school – but if that’s the point, why not simply come by after school when kids are everywhere and law enforcement is nowhere to be seen?
There is no doubt that people are worried when these type of things happen, but at some point we have to be guided by logic and reason. Airplanes occasionally crash and sometimes several hundred people die in them, but the chance of any given plane crashing is less than the chance of being struck by lightning – in fact, you’re more likely to be killed on your way to the airport than on a plane.
We can’t protect ourselves from every devious way a bad guy could possibly get us. Just as we continue to drive cars and cross the street despite measured risks, we have to continue living our lives and we cannot allow fear to consume us.
I’m not being fatalistic here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take reasonable precautions. I wear my seat belt. I have airbags that are deployable in my car. My kids sit in child restraints. We have engineering standards and we continue to improve road safety.
We eliminate or attempt to eliminate things that make it more likely to have fatal accidents, things like alcohol. We need to do more about distracted driving.
I don’t want to send my kids to campuses that look like prisons with barbed wire, metal detectors, armed guards, etc. That is a way of life in some urban schools. We can argue about whether those are helpful or necessary, but one of the reasons I chose to live in Davis is I didn’t want to live that way.
We have risks, but I would prefer to worry about things like road safety and nutrition than the remote chance someone is going to actually plant explosive devices at a school or that we have an active shooter situation. Reasonable precautions, but at the end of the day, focus on the real dangers.
—David M. Greenwald reporting