The Boston bombing has not only inflicted horrific wounds on our country, it has opened old ones. Are we any safer than we were in 1999?
April 20th will mark the 14-year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. Our nation learned a history-altering lesson at great expense that day, as the most deadly American high school shooting unfolded.
This tragedy took the lives of 12 students and a teacher. Twenty-three more were wounded before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters, killed themselves. What was the lesson? Be prepared.
Law enforcement agencies across the United States and other countries studiously dissected the assault as well as events leading up to that day. From those studies Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams have implemented new strategies to quickly stabilize attempted mass shootings or hostage situations in public settings, dramatically minimizing the carnage. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 ramped up bomb prevention.
A while back, I had the privilege of participating in a SWAT training exercise. I joined about 25 other volunteers and 63 uniformed officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies who were outfitted with bullet-proof vests and fake-but realistic training weapons.
I don’t want to give away the methods I observed that day but suffice it to say that there were loud explosions and precise, rapid actions all around us. The idea was to spike the adrenaline of these responders as we forced them to contain this threat in the midst of live human beings who were hysterical and terrified. I could barely speak for two days because of all the screaming.
Sergeant Buddy Acritelli, Tactical Operation Unit Supervisor, SWAT Division, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was in charge of the training event. “My thoughts [after the Columbine incident] were that the way we have to protect our children has forever changed,” he said. The attacks on 911 changed security measures for our country in general.
“We know that we simply can’t wait when these acts of violence occur,” Acritelli explained. “Officers are trained for quick response and go immediately to the threat.”
While prevention, response time, tactics and training techniques have improved since 1999 for police agencies, threats continue to occur, and not just in schools. This was most recently demonstrated in the Boston Bombing. Sadly, violence and mayhem will always be with us. There are countless stories in the Bible; the weapons are simply more sophisticated in our current age.
But as we remember the shock and grief of the Columbine massacre 14 years ago, we can do so with a measure of gratitude that valuable lessons have been learned. We can also feel a little more peaceful knowing that those in charge of protecting us are sharp, prepared and more vigilant than before April 20, 1999.
Evil, and tragic events like the Columbine massacre and the Boston Bombing may take our breath away, especially as the media responds wildly to the chaos. But God is still in control. He is not chaotic, but orderly. He is able to bring comfort and peace in the midst of it all. He grieves with us for this fallen world.
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