Sunday, December 6, 2020

Remembering Today, and Focus on Workplace Safety

On December 8, 2019 I penned Terrorism or Just Violence. I strove to describe personal perceptions of an evolving situation on the morning of December 6, 2019. A year later, I reflect on the import of this first weekend in December. Today brings the lowering of flags to half-staff across Florida in remembrance of three killed and eight wounded by a Saudi Arabian terrorist in Pensacola. Tomorrow brings recollections of the Day that will Live in Infamy. They are reminders, of sacrifice, of tragedy, of heroism, of resilience. 

There are many instances of violence around us. We may become numb to the news. In Chicago this weekend, there are one dead among the seventeen shot, and it is 04:00 Sunday morning. A third to half of the weekend remains. The stories abound in the news, and frankly big city shootings are seemingly just a part of life. For whatever reason, the violence appears immune to law enforcement efforts. Chicago is not alone. There are fears in New York, Baltimore, and elsewhere. There have been other shootings in Pensacola. Violence occurs around us. 

There are incidents every day in which violence is inflected upon someone, somewhere. We may not know them or necessarily feel connected to them. They may be down the street, across town, or a world away. They may be innocent victims caught in collateral circumstances or targets. What many of them have in common is that they become statistics, numbers, news headlines. It is not uncommon even for us to learn that some victim was a good Samaritan

Today will be a remembrance day in Pensacola. There will be thoughts for Airman Mohammed Haitham, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Walters. Each was an individual, but they shared characteristics. Obviously, each had elected the U.S. Navy as a path. They were each at work that morning twelve months ago. They were about their responsibilities and duties when they were confronted by someone whose zeal and anger had overcome any inhibitions or morals, an individual bent on violence. Their experience was tragic and extreme, but they were not unique in encountering violence. 

Forbes reports that "Each year, an average of nearly 2 million U.S. workers report having been a victim of workplace violence." It suggests that we may naturally "downplay any risks in order to emulate a safe environment." We may have a tendency to each "believe the threat could never happen" to us. It attributes our tendency in that regard to our "fatigue of hearing about seemingly random workplace violence." 

The fact is that workplace safety is a real concern. Some of us are blessed to work in controlled environments, others are not. Does control make us safe? Everyone that enters a U.S. military is checked. There are a variety of rules that preclude the possession of personal weapons on those facilities, according to the New York Times. Despite this, three sailors were murdered by a terrorist onboard (their term) Naval Air Station Pensacola. Despite this, a truck driver and a psychiatrist each committed mass shootings at Ft. Hood in the last dozen years, according to USA Today

Police may help, but cannot be omnipresent. Rules may help, but criminals break the law. The Pensacola Air Station terrorist broke the law when he took that gun onboard. The news is replete with reports of miscreants using stolen weapons in their attacks. Though we have rules, laws, and officers to protect us, it may ultimately come down to each of us protecting each of us. Though help may come to us, in the moment we may each need knowledge and skills to survive until that help arrives. 

It is undeniable that violence occurs. Time and again, we have seen that it can occur in the workplace, down on the corner, or even in our own homes (which for some this year are increasingly also their workplace). Sometimes the violence is perpetrated by someone that is known to us, and yet a significant volume involves "total strangers," according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. The Heritage Foundation provides some interesting facts on gun violence, perhaps worthy of consideration. 

In the end, we will live with violence. It may be perpetrated by people with mental issues or anger issues. It may come in the name of terrorism as it did last year in Pensacola, or without any political undertones whatever. It may come from sources we never suspected or from suspects we should have noticed. In the end, it may be that we alone can effectively look out for ourselves. 

The Department of Homeland Security has an excellent publication on situations involving an "active shooter." Ready.gov provides a litany of outstanding advice of which we should all be aware. The Federal Bureau of Investigations offers an informative video regarding our personal response to such situations. A simple Google search will bring an avalanche of resources to your browser. 

There is merit in remembering. I reflect today on the three killed a year ago, and the eight who were injured: Ensign Kristy Lehmer, Ensign Brianna Thomas, Airman Ryan Blackwell, Airman George Johnson, Jessica Pickett, Capt. Charles Hogue, Deputy Matthew Tinch and Deputy Jonathan Glass (according to the Pensacola News Journal). I note that at least two of these were police officers responding in the face of known violence and danger. 

I will remember that workplace violence is a real threat for us all, as is the potential of encountering violence in our communities. I will review the information provided regarding the "active shooter" and strive to remember what I should do in the event that I ever encounter this at work or otherwise. I will encourage you to likewise prepare yourself for the potential of encountering someone whose ill intent is directed towards you purposefully or indiscriminately.

And, I will commit to remaining vigilant and aware. I will remember, as Forbes notes, that too often victims "saw warning signs but didn't think the situation would escalate." I will hope to notice those warning signs. I will not be reluctant to report them if I do. What will you do?