One of the best parts of Spring in the Flathead Valley is the slow opening of the Going To The Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. As the National Park Service works to plow and remove the snow to Logan Pass, the road is open to cyclist only. And so for roughly two months unparalleled road riding is available. It’s a treasure and a gift that I simply can’t get enough of.
In the spring of 1999 I was working at an adjudicated youth rehabilitation facility in Boulder, Montana. The details are long lost into the vacuum of my forgotten memory but on the afternoon April 20th, a beautiful spring day in Montana I first learned of Columbine High School. The 13 killed that day would soon be surpassed at Virginia Tech, and Newtown and the many other places now synonymous with young lives brutally extinguished by the unstable with far too easy access to firearms.
At Columbine the police waited hours to respond till the gunmen were located and the SWAT team was ready to sweep the school, the standard procedure for SWAT scenario up to that point, victims bled to death waiting. As a result law enforcement adopted a policy that all available officers would respond immediately to kill the gun, without waiting for backup.
At Virginia Tech, students and teachers who barricaded classrooms or hid from the gunman survived. Classrooms where the gunman was able to gain access saw the majority of those killed. As a result policy was changed again to instruct teachers to barricade classrooms, hide students and wait for the police to come and eliminate the threat, which usually was under 10 minutes.
At the Newtown Elementary School students who hid from the gunman and were found died. Teachers and students who ran from the gunman lived. Policy was changed to instruct students to run if they could, barricade and hide if they couldn’t, and fight if they had to. Two years ago, all teachers in the school district I teach in were required to spend a day long training in which the “Run, Lock, Fight” responses were explained, practiced and simulated.
This week, the New Yorker magazine published an article about the changing nature of mass casualty first response in medicine. Tournaquits, once seen as barbaric measures that cost victims limbs are now seen as the best response to gunshots to limbs. Wounds to the body proper are now treated with dressings coated in chemicals that promote blood clotting (my trainer referred to them as “Israeli battle dressings”). Teachers are taught to be able to lock their doors within seconds or to keep them locked at all times. Many teachers have cans of wasp spray strategically placed around their classroom to spray at intruders and disable them.
I must admit that I rarely enter a room or building without noticing the exits and thinking quickly and quietly what I would do, where I would hide, if there was a sudden explosion of violence from a gunman. The chances this is going to happen to me are still small, but maybe I’ll be ready.
Also, as a gun owner myself. I should say that I would gladly wait weeks, months and years till I could purchase a new firearm or a used firearm while my mental health, criminal record, weapon storage situation, and firearm training was evaluated. I have never needed a gun immediately and think these common sense evaluations would save thousands of lives a year.
Welcome to teaching in twenty first century America.
From 2002 to 2004 I taught at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax City, Virginia. Though I only lived a few miles from the school the commute was ridiculously long. I was a first year teacher, exhausted and anxious, that long half hour on the way too and from school would allow my idle mind to race into all the catastrophic nightmares I could conjure. Often I would think back to my time in Montana. In Montana you could always substitute your personal worries to worrying about the weather, wild land forest fires, large mammal attack, drowning, or being caught in a shootout with some outlaw biker gang or white aryan nation battalion.
Oh, Montana, thank you for giving me a life worth living.
I will never have this night again. Never again will this moment be here. Never again should we trust our time with those who would waste it.
Winter froze everything in February and March, including my mind. I’ve been wracked with procrastination and indecision everywhere and in everything. Yet, the mantra “this too shall pass” is a reflection of nature that surrounds us. Snow drifts melt, flood waters recede, iceand spring is breaking into northwest Montana.
My own procrastination has been replaced by action. Don’t underestimate the power of taking that one step, of starting. May we never lose the courage to move forward, even in the smallest step. Action, any action is the most powerful tonic.
Summer will be here soon. Emerge from your dark homes, gather in the dawn for a run, meet at the trailhead, linger on the patio in the last rays of the day. Make plans now, buy the tickets, make the reservation. Invest in memories, it slows time down in the most enjoyable way possible.
According to a 2010 psychological study about the connection between anticipation and happiness that was published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it. The authors of the study, researchers from the Netherlands, interviewed 1,530 people, including 974 vacationers, and found that the vacationers felt most happy before their trips.