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Sunday Mornings with Rania: When It Happens - Kids More Resilient than We Are

Rania Mankarious
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Sunday Mornings with RaniaThis week’s topic was supposed to be something completely different. But when the last two weeks have involved the deaths of three students who attend a local Houston high school, we needed to switch topics. Two students died in a murder-suicide off campus. In an unrelated incident, a third student was killed while across the street from the school, a school located in the heart of our city, in a prominent neighborhood, surrounded by retailers, pedestrians, homes and at least three other public and private schools.

In the aftermath, parents were on edge, even fearful that their “children wouldn’t survive high school.” They were also angry. Many came together demanding better security and more police as they pledged to “take their school back.”  We understand. As a parent there is no greater fear than having something happen to your child, especially when they are apart from you.

But through all the conversations, I stopped to look at the actual students placed on lockdown, those who were told to hide and to silence their phones. What did they think? How were they handling this? What I found had to be shared. 

  • She’s only 11 years old and a student at River Oaks Baptist School. She called her mother and said, “Mom, I’m okay, we’re on lockdown but I am okay. I’m hiding behind the desk because there’s nowhere else I can go; I want to be hidden in case anyone comes in here with a gun. I’m not scared but I have to hang up so I can hear what’s going on.”
  • He’s 17 years old and a student at Lamar High School. He called his mother and said, “Mom, I’m okay. We’re in gym and I’m hiding under the bleachers. I’m not scared, and I have an exit strategy if a gunman comes into the gym. I have an exit plan. I have to hang up so I can listen. I love you. I’m not scared.”
  • He’s 18 years old and a student at Lamar High School. In the aftermath, he told a parent, “You guys are more afraid than we are. This is our new reality and we are learning to adjust to it. We will fight and are not afraid.”

The magnitude of those responses needs to sit with us for a second. It’s critical to note – it’s not that these students have been desensitized but rather are being prepared. The three quotes above are taken from students raised in homes where public safety conversations are part of the norm; the families are active Crime Stoppers community partners. They have been trained in an age-appropriate, non-threatening way; they have had the conversation multiple times and are able to approach this horrific reality with a calm sense of survival no matter what.

We need all kids to be this way.

Now, I absolutely know what you are thinking. But what about gun control? What about better security for schools? What about the fact that those kids weren’t literally faced with the shooter; if a gunman walked in or shots were fired near them, wouldn’t their calls/texts be different? What about the fact that some think training for active shooters can scare children? I hear all of it and I agree that we must work on gun control, 100 percent, but starting legislative changes now or even signing an Executive Order immediately would not have stopped the gunman last week. I also agree that we MUST address the physical security of school campuses - that’s an immediate issue and must be implemented by all schools, period. Many are discussing this locally and statewide. I also fully recognize (as do these students) that if the gunman had walked into the areas where the students I quoted were hiding, their stories would have been very different. True, but let’s look at actual accounts from those who survived the Thousand Oaks shooting. Amongst the survivors were many who were strategic in breaking free; they threw barstools to break windows or strategically ran through the bar, out back doors or windows. In an environment filled with terror, shock and “sheer panic,” they were able to keep thinking. 

The incident at Lamar High School is showing us that there is a growing number of kids who will also “keep thinking.” These students are not going to be paralyzed by fear, even in the scariest of situations.

So what did these parents say to their children?

  • Run. Remain calm, always be thinking about where you are and where your safe exits are and plan to escape no matter what. The only time you STOP running is when law enforcement demands everyone stay down. Otherwise, be aware of your surroundings, listen for the “location” of the gunshots and run. The average distance victims in mass shootings are shot from is just 18 inches, according to Greg Shaffer, a former FBI special agent and member of the bureau’s elite Hostage Rescue Team and founder of Shaffer Security Group, which specializes in active shooter response. Run away from the range of fire. Run.   
  • Hide. Hide ONLY IF you literally have no other option. Active shooter prevention expert Chris Grollnek estimates that more than 90 percent of fatalities in at least 13 of the active shootings he studied were because the victims were trying to hide.  It’s important that if you are hiding that you turn your cell phone to silent.
  • Fight. If you can no longer run and no longer hide, FIGHT. Throw desks, throw the classroom trashcan, throw books, your backpack, boots, shoes, anything you can. Will it stop a bullet? No. But it could potentially keep the shooter from keeping their aim and give you the chance to survive.  Shaffer also says that students need to find whatever objects near them to block and defend themselves. This is fighting. It must be done. 

These few steps can gift our children with the ability to think while mitigating paralyzing fear. And the number of shootings last month is creating a wake-up call for all. In the case of the student killed last week, Crime Stoppers wants to remind communities that tipsters can call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with any information anonymously. A cash reward of $5,000 currently exists. Mayor Sylvester Turner said it best: Someone, somewhere, knows something. Call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).

For more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston, go to crime-stoppers.org and follow Crime Stoppers on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Email her directly at rmankarious@crime-stoppers.org. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter. Read past Sundays with Rania posts here.

Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.

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