Sunday, September 21, 2014

What would I do?

Our rural, ordinarily quiet region of Pennsylvania suffered the loss of a state trooper and the injury of a second trooper in an ambush at their barracks. As I write this, the gunman with a grudge against law enforcement is still on the loose, reportedly on foot through the woods and back roads of the Pocono Mountains. With troopers closing in on all sides, I pray this will end soon and with no further harm to anyone.

On Thursday, the day of the trooper's funeral, hundreds of troopers from around the country attended.
To say security was tight is an understatement. So when I heard a low-flying helicopter overhead while I was at work, it barely registered. I assumed it was in connection with the funeral. Then I heard another helicopter. And another. The sound of blades became almost constant for about 20 minutes, and yet we were a full 12 miles away from the site of the mass and the burial. My thoughts switched. I began to wonder if the helicopters were searching the woods near my workplace for this madman.

Now I'm a fairly clear-headed person, not prone to panic or worst-case scenarios so I checked out news sources. The helicopters were indeed part of the funeral and the air search remained focused on an area about 30 miles away from me. But it made me wonder - if I had to live with a threat like that, how would I react? What would I do?

Which brings me to the point. In my safe, ordinary life, my behavior may be rational and predictable. If I were confronted with danger, I'd like to think I'd be moral. But I wonder. Would I freeze or act? Would I stay and fight or run? What if that danger surrounded me for days, for weeks or years? Would I hunker down in survival mode, or would I act to fight the danger which was disrupting my life and that of others?

That's where stories come in. Tales of people who behave honorably in horrific times and places continue to amaze me. Just this week I watched The Scarlet and the Black with Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer. It's the true story of an Irish priest who worked at the Vatican during the Nazi occupation of Rome. He behaved honorably and according to his own morals in the face of Nazi aggression and against the orders of his Pope.

His tale gives me hope that, in the face of such evil, I would behave honorably too. 

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