We hear tales of terror from across the globe and worry about our own vulnerability. Could these heinous acts happen where we are during our normal daily routine?
According to the book Psychology of Terrorism edited by Bruce Bongar, the main goals of terrorist acts are to promote insecurity and disrupt everyday life. We watch repeated news reports with graphic footage of bombed out buildings, rows of body bags, tearful interviews of people looking for loved ones, and read names of the dead and injured as if each victim is personally known to us.
We can’t help but empathize. Oh my God, that could have been us; that could have been my daughter; is that my son’s school; my husband isn’t answering his cell phone; we were JUST there. While we certainly sympathize with the victims and their families, we can’t help but realize our own helplessness.
The violence seems random, we never know when or where it will happen. Is there any safe place to hide? How much do we want to stop living our own lives on the “what if” scenario? Is it wise just to ignore the possibility no matter how slight we think it might be?
As Bongor stated in his book, it is the intention of terrorists to disrupt our lives. Do we really want to give the terrorists the victory? I don’t. So what are our options?
Stay vigilant: the catch-phrase of modern times is If you see something, say something — that’s common sense. Unattended bags, unexplained packages, heavy coats on a warm/hot day, actually seeing a weapon being carried into a crowded place, mystery powders... Any of these may or may not be cause for concern, but if it looks suspicious, let the proper authorities know. Don’t investigate the briefcase that appears to have no owner. Don’t enter a room where the multiple occupants appear to be unconscious or worse.
Always notice your exit routes. Don’t leave your purse open and unobserved. Never accept packages from strangers who ask you to just carry it inside. And if, God forbid, the unthinkable does happen, stay calm and orderly, hold your children’s hands so they don’t get lost in a crowd, exit if possible with or without your personal belongings. Don’t tie up phone lines, if they still work they will be needed for emergencies — if you are letting relatives know you are alright, call one and ask them to relay the message.
Before any disaster, whether man-made or natural, you can help prepare yourself, your family and your home for recovery. First and foremost, take a first aid and CPR class; in a major disaster medical personnel will be swamped with patients and resources will be slim so if you or a loved one has a relatively minor injury it could be a while until someone is able to treat you so if you know what to do, it will definitely help. Make sure that your children (and pets) carry identification in case you are separated. Maintain a running inventory of valuables you have at home and store a digital copy of all vital documents off-site. Plan a meeting point for family members if you have to leave an area quickly and may not be together; older children and adults may also arrange to check in by phone with a long-distance relative.
The main thing is to LIVE. Be aware, not afraid. Use common sense, remain alert, help your neighbors, and know that you are not alone.