This is a police tribute that forces me to recall advice given to me by one of our best CIA operatives:
- “Do NOT hold up anyone, putting them on a pedestal impossibly beyond your reach. Instead, just strive to live their example.”
This is a police tribute that forces me to recall advice given to me by one of our best CIA operatives:
Humble thanks go to our Police Department, our Chief of Police Michael Hobgood (who, with his words about why we need a chaplain, sets the bar very high indeed), our Mayor James Reid (and his very kind words), and all of our hard working Aldermen. It is a vote of confidence that demands that I strive to live up to expectations. I will do my best.
Some points touched on by the Chief:
Might one think that the video above is a bit too dramatic, the music too adrenaline pushing, somehow glorifying violence (though it’s not; it’s just reality), somehow capitalizing on the adrenaline rush that can come along – going from zero to a hundred in one second in any number of mundane situations such as traffic stops, domestics?
If you think so, erroneously, then do have a listen to “Mike the Cop”, who was inspired to be a cop by his brother, who went into law enforcement before him, and who was shot and killed in the line of duty. Mike rounds out the perspective that you might have not seen above as you’re not in it. But here’s the way it really, really is. I agree with everything Mike says here:
More on the journey of establishing a Police Chaplaincy where there was none before will follow on this blog. That will include commentary on aspects of what a law enforcement chaplain gets himself into.
For now, again, thanks to Chief Hobgood, the guys in the Department, to our Mayor James Reid and all our Aldermen.
I have much to say about this kind of thing given that DHS has trashed pretty much everything they did have for encouragement of self-protection and training (which was a lot at the time) in favor of ripping everything from their own FEMA and giving it over to a brand new agency that is still in its infancy and still sporting its first Director: CISA. The incredible magnitude of CISA’s effort in so short a time is nothing short of amazing. I’ll get to that in future. For myself, for my parish, for churches and synagogues, I have some practical suggestions at least for this locale. I’ll get to that in future as well, I hope.
For now, I would like to repeat some advice from a previous post on the old FEMA out-of-date and broken-linked effort of more than two years ago, which post has been seen by pretty much every justice department and law enforcement agency from local to state to federal, and has been visited by pretty much every educational institution, private, city, county, or state, from podunk to the ivy league, also internationally, making it one of the most visited posts ever on this blog. That post is now out of date, except for the added advice:
But in viewing that church shooting video above, one more point needs to be added. I praise the church for having a security team and for allowing firearms in church for self-defense. That team might have been trained up well. But…
No one gets out of training. Churches present a different situation from SWAT or military house clearing, as the above video makes evident. Military and Law Enforcement exceptions are not to be made in scenario based training with the exact incident in the video above as evidence of this. Everyone dismisses the soft target as that which is easy to protect. The opposite is true, especially because of this attitude. “I got this!” is the typical exclamation based on truly heroic careers of those who have been highly decorated for their bravery in violent incidents. I get that. It’s the temptation of any and all to rest on their laurels when it comes to soft targets. It is what it is. Unless there is scenario based training also for the differences of high entry and low entry, even the greatest of heroes isn’t to be on the security team. We don’t need anyone thinking “they have this”. Watch those two guys in the foreground of the video above again. That’s as scary as the active shooter guy.
Just because you own a tool doesn’t mean you know how to use it. Even if you have your drills down, that doesn’t mean you have your scenario practice in. And that certainly doesn’t mean you have situational awareness skills or deescalation skills. I’m NOT claiming I’m great at any of those, but I do some study. I try to keep up. I think that’s an obligation for everyone who carries. It’s a service to society to carry. Just make sure you have at least some competence.
Let’s look at some stills:
Let’s move on a nanosecond:
Let’s move on a nanosecond:
What I’m saying is this: Scenario based training in the environment in which you are going to be a defender is important. Churches and synagogues are much different than “kill house” training, you know, house-clearing training. It’s not enough to carry. It’s not enough to know your drills. You have to know how to approach a situation. You have to know how to read a situation.
Again, I’m the armchair pundit here. I’m a zillion miles away from that church. I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the adrenaline pumping. I didn’t suffer from myopic vision because of adrenaline. All I’m saying is that there is a world of difference – easily between life and death – between the two defenders up top and the two to either side. It’s not enough to have a security team even made up of war heroes and law enforcement. This is a different situation. It’s a soft target that’s actually more difficult to defend.
It’s been well over 3 1/2 years ago that Officer Mader put his off-the-charts skill sets in deescalation into action, and saved the life of a guy wanting to do a suicide-by-cop, well, until another officer just shot the guy three times to the body and once to the head (the latter being the instant kill shot). Then Officer Mader was fired for not firing his gun himself. Mader went on to win a $175,000 settlement for wrongful termination. But then he had to move out of his hometown as the harassment was too great for he and his family. “He’s a coward!” it was said. No. Deescalation is not cowardice. It is supreme bravery if the circumstances were right. It just seems that the officer who arrived in media res might have asked what the deal was. Maybe he did. I wasn’t there.
I would like to share just a couple of incidents about deescalation, one related to me by a Sheriff who did the same as Officer Mader as told to me by that Sheriff himself, and another I personally saw during a heavily armed incident. Both stunning stories. I do this because I’ve seen the same off-the-charts skill sets in deescalation more recently. Hugely impressive. Let’s start with something I saw myself:
 The above picture is the entrance to the Fijian Parliament. I was there in the year 2000 taking over the courses for the chair of the Scripture department of the Pacific Regional Seminary which is situated to the right just some hundreds of yards away. The problem was that all the students, staff, faculty and administration to a man, to a woman, had all fled as far away as possible, even to their own countries, to avoid a somewhat violent coup d’état with 21 hostages, members of the parliament, including the Prime Minister, that was taking place in the parliament itself.
Being left behind, as it were, and being behind the last military check point, left to the whims of the hostage takers, I decided – me being me – to read all of the Bible, cover to cover, writing marginal notes and cross indexing everything in my mind and on those pages, all while walking the surf on that southeastern seaboard of the tiny country, directly in front of the parliament. :-)
Sometimes I would end up walking along the road that bordered the sometimes too violent surf, even right at the entrance of the parliament itself, even when some of the hostage takers were also out front on the road. At that point, the side of the road sported a smoking, ashen, burned out fruit bar / restaurant, and now mounting skeletons of cattle the hostage takers had been eating. Deescalation skills came in handy a number of times when I was approached. There were plenty of murders around the mostly peaceful country in now extremely tense times.
Then, just from the POV of the picture above, I saw a dozen soldiers on the one side and a dozen on the other aggressively walk-running toward each other just at this point. They all had their rifles brandished in front of them, pointing at each other, yelling whatever it is that one yells in such a situation. I ran to the left of the picture, trying to get cover from any violence that seemed sure to break out, but I must say that I had a front row seat to what would now follow. There were plenty of bullets that would zip through the seminary grounds (also right next to me, repeatedly… ah… that sound of bullets passing by your head…), so it wasn’t as if anyone was hesitant about pulling the trigger for any or no reason.
When they came together I witnessed the most incredible restraint-as-deescalation I have ever seen or can ever imagine seeing. Both sides did a kind of dance in which they would lunge at each other in the air – pointing their rifles directly at the opposition – only to drop their rifles mid-air (still secured by slings) so that their hands were free to grab the ends of the barrels of the rifles of the enemy soldiers pointing right at them. There would be a tussle for the control of weapons, but then the lunger would retreat having yelled some choice words. After some long minutes of this – and it started to get boring even as they got tired of this surreal dance – the verbal assaults turned into a somewhat more intelligible back and forth between the two leaders of the clashing parties. Surely these were demands being made and such like, you know, like delivering pizza, or re-writing the constitution. The Fijian way. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone went to school with everyone. Everyone went through United Nations military training with each other.
In other words, it’s alright to know your enemy, what he will and will not at all do in certain situations. No one was going to fire a weapon in such a situation. Zero chance. Is deescalation by restraint allowed? It can be dangerous, but yes. There may be a life or two lost here or there because of misreading of certain signs or subterfuge about the same, but hundreds or thousands of lives may be saved because of that restraint.
 But even more to the point, let’s take a more local law enforcement suicide-by-cop attempt that took place somewhere here in Western North Carolina (I know exactly where) and told to me by the Sheriff involved, who did the same thing as Officer Mader in the video above. That Sheriff has been reelected many times.
What happened was that the perp had purposely caused a scuffle in town, waiting for law enforcement to show up. It was the Sheriff himself. The perp ran to the nearest creek, some 1,600 feet. The Sheriff caught him, but he broke loose and jumped in the creek, now brandishing a gun and shooting “at” the Sheriff. I put “at” in scare quotes because the shots were way wide. The Sheriff immediately understood that the guy meant him no harm, but was wanting a suicide-by-cop. The Sheriff then went in after him, the perp continuing to pull the trigger, firing more shots “at” the Sheriff. The Sheriff simply tackled him, took the gun, and dragged the perp to the river bank, cuffing him and marching him back into town. The guy goes to jail. A year later, the perp asked to see the Sheriff, who went to see his “assailant.” Sure enough, the perp admitted he had been attempting to do a suicide-by-cop, and thanked the Sheriff for having saved his life with restraint as deescalation. Amazing.
The thing is, you have to keep level headed in such situations. You have to have lots of scenario training, including suicide-by-cop training. Not having that doesn’t make for a happy ending. But sometimes there are those who are super trained up:
So, however sad the situation, that was really funny. Hahahahaha. Sorry, I played this multiple times. I laughed every time.
I mean, just think about it. How many suicide-by-cop incidents, with the perp brandishing a gun, have resulted in no one being injured. Quite a few. Remember the one in which the guy just sat in a chair on the middle of a road after a spat with his girlfriend and brandished a gun? They didn’t shoot him. They knew what was going on. They quietly got a sniper in place. The sniper guy shot and hit the trigger mechanism of the gun, making the gun fly out of his hands. The perp guy didn’t even lose any fingers. But maybe some departments don’t have snipers, etc., etc. I know. I know.
And, yes, I know, all cases are different and very many times you do have to pull the trigger on someone regardless of what they say or do signifying a suicide-by-cop attempt. They are just too dangerous, too out of control, too wild. It is what it is.
Analogy with all matters spiritual in evangelization: Do we ever dismiss anyone ever because they seem to have gone too far, that they are too far gone? It’s not to be done. Our Lord is working on everyone. As long as we are alive, that in itself is proof that our Lord is giving us a chance to get to heaven.
I noticed this in the territory of the parish for the first time the other day up Junaluska Road East of Andrews. He didn’t make it on to the ODMP as it seems his was not a LODD. He was not part of our Police Dept, serving elsewhere. He was on a motorcycle and this stretch of road is notoriously dangerous. I can think of a number of scenarios. Whatever way an officer dies we honor his life of service and mourn his passing. Thanks, Officer Perrette. RIP
I mean, people criticize me for carrying a total of 46 rounds for my G19:
Note that the purpose of any self-defensive gun fire is to make the deadly and imminent threat stop. That’s it. No one’s out to kill anyone just to do it. The perps are, of course. Not the perps body-count in the video. There are bad people.
Was the perp in the video above a deadly and imminent threat as he offensively pumped bullets in the squad car of the cop? Um… Yes. That should be obvious.
Did the perp stop his aggression even after being hit with multiple well placed bullets? No.
Did the cop need to keep firing until the threat was subdued? Yes.
Was the cop thought to be guilty of anything other than by the uninformed liberal tender snowflake doctor at the hospital? No.
Is the cop back on duty? Yes. And rightly so. Happy he carries plenty of ammo.
Back to the criticism I get from happy go lucky six-shooters. They say that if you can’t hit your target with just one or two shots, you’re a bad shot and should practice more.
Let’s ask another question:
Is the cop in the video above a firearms instructor and does he know what he’s doing? Yes, on both counts. I like the 13 bullets in three holes result.
I’ll keep doing what I’m already doing, even though it’s three times less ammo than our hero cop in the above video now carries.
O.K., so it should be obvious that these are not real mugshots, what with glasses, a heap of hospital and nursing home and Police Ride-Along and otherwise volunteer tags hanging around my neck, etc. Note also, there is no DOC superimposed metadata, and no underlying metadata other than from a handheld phone by arresting LEO (of the actual suspect!). Note also the POV of the LEO. This is not the stationary camera of the DOC but a handheld phone (note the different heights).
Perhaps I protesteth too much. Hahaha.
But it’s good to have a bit of humor going on, leading up to and coming out of whatever situations.
There are other times which are carried in one’s heart and soul, always and at all times. Humor does not lift one out of the reality of the times in which we live, but rather, humor puts an edge, on the one hand, on the absurdity of crime and and violence, and, on the other hand, humor also puts an edge on the dedication and prompt service of our public safety officers which they accomplish regardless of the risk they take.
Lest we forget, this is in Las Vegas some years ago, but this is representative of so very many similar situations that can happen at any time, anywhere, to any officers who are serving us all:
The LEOs I know have extraordinary skills in deescalation. People sometimes wonder why it is that officers cannot deescalate all situations. Sometimes, as in the situation recounted in the video above, any skills in deescalation are useless. One is thrown immediately into an active critical incident situation with only nanoseconds to respond. What we see in the video above is officers running into critical incident danger. Two die. Would you and I be so very ready to do the same? Lord, help us.
These USA are constituted by we the people so that we have a government of, for and by the people, a constitutional republic, that is, that which is democratic but not strictly a democracy: passing fads of pressure groups should not trump, as it were, the law, the Constitution.
Here in these USA we recognise rights of individuals as unalienable because irreversibly granted by a Higher Authority, God Himself, not merely capriciously “granted” by some arbitrary person of some government who could in that case simply rescind those rights.
But some may chose to abandon their rights. We have a fallen human nature. Thus, the dire need for un-politicized police.
On the one hand, I wish I could supply our officers with the best equipment and the best tech. We have what is needed for what it takes and the guys do a great job. But a little extra edge would benefit everyone.
On the other hand, there’s an extra sense of accomplishment when you’re so good at what you do that you get it done regardless. And they do. We have a great PD.
Update: I got to thinking about this. Does Pope Francis and his Pachamama Entourage concede that steadfast belief in Jesus is a right granted by Almighty God?
He now owns the Chuck Norris Walker Texas Ranger memes.
Holy Mass was offered in my parish for the repose of the soul of a Huntsville, Alabama FBI forensic photographer who suffered what is termed a suspicious death the other week in my parish, that is, in one of the most remote patches of national forest in North America, up at historic Stewart Cabin campground. Google-Map “Stewart Cabin” to see just how remote it is from… anything…
In my varied life I’ve learned that that which answers a question the most consistently – internally and externally – and also the most simply, leaving little room for complexities to be subject to confirmation bias or whatever manipulation, is usually the hypothesis that’s getting closer to the truth than anything else. Everything about this seems rotten to the core.
The FBI has already swarmed away (along with four other law enforcement agencies), for what it’s worth depending on who’s directing things. But when something like this happens in my parish, I take it personally. Was she doing something she shouldn’t have been doing, you know, from whatever perspective on whatever side of the fence? Was she doing something way too well, getting too close to the truth? Was she just taking pictures of nature? Really? Appearances mean nothing one way or the other when it comes to this level of law enforcement. So, again, if it happens in my parish, I’m personally offended. It is what it is.
Only six to seven hours. Yes, there was a Red Bull drive-through stop. And, Yes, there was a donut stop. I mean, how could there not be?
There was some patrolling and quite a number of wildly varying types of calls to answer, for which – a couple of them – I’m thinking that it might have been a good idea to put on a ballistic vest. There are no typical traffic stops. There are no humdrum domestic disputes.
I was supposed to be an official “observer”. This is the result:
I have to commend the officer I was with for his extraordinary skills in deescalation and his abundant leniency. He’s a walking public relations department. Good job, officer!
In the midst of radio chatter, lights and sirens, chases, the clatter of hand-cuffs, the smell of stepped-in dog-poop, the rough language of some of the frequent flyers, the officer and myself had the most profound yet fast moving theological conversation. Absolutely extraordinary. Lots of topics on the relationship of mercy and justice. That’s desperately important for those who have their faces in the midst of the most unjust situations imaginable. Really good.
Later that night, with another half-dozen people, we watched Saint Thomas More get his head chopped off in one of the best films of all time: A Man for All Seasons!
Before I got my purchase permit and then immediately my concealed carry permit here in Western North Carolina 2+ years ago, I had never shot a pistol in my life. I got it because in some places of our Catholic Diocese a prerequisite for being a police chaplain is to go though critical incident training facilitated by the FBI. Part of the course deals with terrorists and terrorism and situational awareness and the handling of critical incidents so as to facilitate the most people surviving in whatever ways of assistance that is possible according to the possibilities.
Because of unforeseen contingencies, the agents make you familiar with, that is, know how to break down and set up and accurately fire under any conditions pretty much any kind of gun there is, at least all the variants used by any police department or police response unit in one’s region. While I figured I could learn how to work with rifles or shotguns easy enough (though I would have to stare at the math for sniper work a bit), I also thought that it would be more difficult to acquire skills for a pistol, such as shooting while running, etc., and that those lack of skills would slow me down.
As one can tell from the older pictures above, early on I was tending to make grip mistakes, with inconsistency being my strong point, you know, with being self-taught and all that. It’s pretty bad when inconsistency is your strongest point! I had plenty of hyper-qualified people giving advice, but only rarely would I be at a range with anyone. The hermitage is the most middle of nowhere place for a range imaginable. Leading myself, it’s the blind leading the blind. And it’s that way until today. So, I need practice. But I haven’t been able to have a good extended session for really quite a long time now. And since those pictures were taken above I’ve pretty much limited myself to various tactical pistol courses, such as this simple one for periodic pistol qualification for already serving FBI agents. It’s easy as they don’t want agents getting a DQ, a disqualification. Here’s that course pictured below:
That picture is also pretty old, but it exactly represents what I put up the other day in the exact same place at the hermitage. Those are legal size paper details of the inside bottle of the QIT 97-99 set out at 3-5-7-15-25 yards. One draws from the holster for various combinations of shots and timings. Here’s what I had just started to do on the infamous “Day Off” the other day in a totally relaxed manner. Timings are in hundredths of seconds:
So, not so quick. Cutting those times in half would be ideal. But the hits were all in time and all accurate. But that’s a false report, really, as I didn’t bother to get myself worked up with a bit of adrenaline (as one can do with, say, hill sprints, or not!), which adrenaline is what will always happen in a critical incident. Anyway, after this, I had planned on doing the FAMs course and SEALs course, et al., but I didn’t even finish stage four (of five stages) a couple of minutes into the first run through the FBI course.
The phone rang. The police.
As soon as I answered, I knew I was done with any shooting for the day and started packing up the targets mid-course while I continued speaking. That phone call went on for a very long time there on that mountain trail up to the hermitage. The phone cut out multiple times (no strong cell-tower signal at the hermitage) but we reconnected and continued until we talked ourselves out for the day. It was getting dark out, so I headed down the ridge and had a great chat and meal with the neighbors and then got myself back home before midnight. Some hundreds of miles. The next day was given to research about that conversation, and today will be given over to answering this interlocutor by email.
The guy with whom I was talking is well known to all police chiefs in the country. He recommended lots of things to me to put some past skills at the service of law enforcement locally, in these USA, and on a more international basis. I recognized in him a spirit which I only sometimes come across. His devotion to God and country, his patriotism, his integrity, the suffering he’s been through, all so inspiring.
Thanks, Mike the Cop.
You led me deeper into life.
There were some two dozen present. Lots of food. Lots of drink. I had Ginger Ale, though I have nothing against responsible consumption. The easiest song to sing had but one word, “Tequila!”
The Karaoke controller’s wife had the most difficult song with an impossible range. She did great. Being from the Philippines where Karaoke is ubiquitous and continuous, she’s had plenty of practice, though I must say the cop has got quite the range as well, as well as a friend of theirs who I thought might have to try out for America’s Got Talent.
Johnny Cash songs were the most popular. Lots of older stuff. And we had two languages going on. A Mexican couple did the obligatory La Bamba and their family did quite a number of songs, with their daughter also singing in English.
If you must know, the ones yours truly participated in are “You bring me back to life”
and then, from way back in the day, Buffalo Springfield’s “For what it’s worth.”
I hesitate to put up the videos they took of us singing, as I’ve already been trounced by the trolls for my obvious lack of dancing ability as well:
Is humor forbidden? Is making others laugh outlawed? Is having a good time with friends the most terrible sin? Didn’t Jesus come eating and drinking? Are we all John the Baptist? What did Jesus say about Wisdom’s children?
O.K. So, here’s a few seconds of each song.
This is a post tagged as humor, so, there it is. Hahaha.
When people say that this is NOT the time for humor, the situation is dire. “We must be more serious!” they say. — Well, when people say that, that’s precisely the time to have some humor.
Are there not plenty of saints who, when asked what they would do if they knew that the world would be ending in ten minutes, their answer was “I would continue to do whatever it is that I was already doing, for it is a worthy occupation also in the spiritual life when whatever we do is done in the Lord and for Him.”
“But Reverend Father Byers! Reverend Father Byers! Haven’t we had enough of humanizing the priesthood already?!”
Nope. Not at all. Actually, there’s been way too much putting priests on pedestals, literally, up the steps of the high altar where the high altar and tabernacle have been done away with so that we have a new “god,” you know, those priests who think they are better than the Most Holy Trinity, thinking they can change the truth of doctrine and morality when the Most Holy Trinity cannot do that. Heck with all that rubbish. Jesus is the one. He’s the only one. Time for priests to be HUMAN, however much they are laudably dedicated to Jesus, the Divine High Priest. We ordained priests are nothing, and we had better get out of the way of Jesus so that Jesus’ priesthood with His love and His truth is manifested through us.
Do I obscure Jesus by a bit of a few minutes of singsong, by a few seconds (literally) of dance? I should hope not. I’m guessing that that would not be my fault, but the fault of those who are just overflowing with condemnation always and everywhere for everyone, but themselves.
It’s precisely the humor that can bring people in, by inviting to them, you know, while at the same time not abandoning truth and justice. Actually, one can insist on truth and justice more when one is also appropriately humorous.
I’m guessing a feather of Father’s guardian angel jammed the gun, twice.
This is a Hail Mary story if ever there was one. The power of the Rosary!
Because of the immediacy of a certain set of weird circumstances in which would-be misdemeanor activity of a certain individual – objectively speaking – could have jumped to a class “H” and then class “I” felony (here in NC), a cop from the other side of these USA was telling me sometime later about the meaning of some tattoos[!].
After this conversation, I spoke with a prisoner, and he said that, in his area, again in an entirely different area of these USA, those kinds of tats did not have anything to do with HIV as far as he knew. And if they did, one would immediately want to make a distinction with how it is that someone came to have HIV. For instance a druggy “lifestyle” using used needles isn’t necessarily the same as an “alternative lifestyle.”
I rarely ask people about their tattoos. But I do. I would if I saw tear drops, which can reference even a number of murders. I asked a guy who stopped in front of the rectory asking for directions about his full body tattoos that reminded me of MS-13. He was fearful of letting his tats be seen, even wearing one of those girly shirts with the ultra-long-sleeves that are tied around the thumbs so as to cover the hands. But the tats spilled out onto his fingers and up his neck and face.
I discovered trying to do up fingerprints recently for NC-SBI and FBI background checks for getting my concealed carry with the sheriff that my “natural tattoos” (fingerprints) are pretty much worn away. I guess I’m older than I was at one time…
The only real imprint you’ll find with me is the permanent character of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders while I hope that, as Saint Paul says, any sanctifying grace will turn to glory forever in heaven. We’re already “branded”, if you will, for our Lord by our Lord. By this time it’s not something that covers over but the Most Holy Trinity shining out.
We had some sort of emergency in the far back corner of Holy Redeemer Church this past Sunday, September 8, at the end of the offertory of the 11:00 AM Mass. Our entire church can fit into most sanctuaries of most churches, so, the far back corner of the church is, like, merely 25 feet away from the altar.
Someone cried out: “Call 911!” And the chorus of “Call 911!” multiplied in seconds. But there was no noisy commotion. No one said what the emergency was in those first seconds. I hiked it down from the altar to the back of the church in those few seconds. Pastor is as pastor does, right? As I then found out, it was a medical emergency for one of our ushers. In mere seconds, I gave an emergency anointing of the sick to the usher even before they were able to lay him down on the floor. EMS arrived minutes later and our usher is just fine now.
Since our faith family is small, we’re pretty tightly knit, so you can imagine our hearts were entirely in solidarity with our usher. You might say that we were distracted, that anyone bothering to have any situational awareness could now relax as it’s surely impossible that any other critical incident indicators that might present themselves cannot happen, because, you know, emergencies rarely happen, and un-associated and entirely diverse critical incidents never happen at the same time. So, go ahead, let your guard down, right? Wrong.
We immediately continued Mass starting with the Preface. “The Lord be with you!” “And with your spirit!” came the strikingly strong response. I can’t imagine that anyone would or, humanly speaking, could complain about these few seconds given over for the anointing, either time-wise or appropriateness-wise. So, no big deal, right? But something else happened in those few seconds in back of the church which should have had me run after someone so as to get a licence plate without him realizing it, you know, right after that anointing. That would have been logistically pretty easy in our circumstances. But I didn’t do it. Stupid me. Let’s review.
We had an unusually high number of visitors throughout the church. The emergency and the calls to call 911 were happening right in back of a certain visitor, who, unlike the others, did not come with a family. Never seen him before. He was alone [… description removed…]. By the time I got next to that certain visitor who was sitting at the end of the pew in the side aisle in that back corner of the church, with me just about to reach over others to anoint our usher, the visitor guy came out of the end of the pew and simply pushed me into those holding up the usher, that is, out of his own way. The visitor guy then bolted to the front-side door of the church and made good his escape. “Escape…”
The push wasn’t anything violent, but it was forceful enough to get the job done (I’m a pretty big guy), forceful enough that I had to turn to look at him while he bolted out. It was all too surreal. I was instantly all questions about who he was and what he was up to. I watched him until he went out the door next to the sanctuary in, say, four seconds. Whatever about him, I then turned my attention over to the usher so as to get him anointed.
Many are able to keep a sense of situational awareness for a singular critical incident that may take place at any given time, but it is not so easy to be entirely in the midst of one incident while another, entirely un-associated and entirely diverse and utterly unexpected critical incident begins at the same time in the same place. That’s what was happening here. This was an excellent experience easily able to demonstrate lack of readiness. Humility is always needed. To be noted:
Recall the discovery of “White Hat”, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two terrorist bombers of the Boston Marathon, now locked up in the ultra-super-max ADX facility in Florence, Colorado. He was the only one who did NOT look at the explosion as it took place on Boylston Street near the finish line of the race. He is the only one who looked away from the explosion, and then made good his escape:
I have the link of that video set to 49:36. Watch until 50:35, just under a minute. This is a lesson in catching out a bad actor. Note how the terrorist guy doesn’t look, but looks away. This is important. Also:
“No! – I can’t do this! – I have to leave!”
This was not a frantic, panic attack statement, nor a statement issuing from PTSD. It was all quite deliberate, even ever so slightly tinged with anger, but not at any of us, but rather with himself, disappointed, it seems, perhaps, that he had actually decided to do something horrific, but was just now changing his mind. He wasn’t at all in panic-like fear. Nor was he suffering from wartime violent sensory overload and couldn’t bear to see anything anymore even in the form of a non-violent medical emergency. He didn’t know if it was a medical emergency or he was being called out. If he was a bad actor and was just now changing his mind to not do the unthinkable, a medical emergency and calls to 911 would act as a preview of what he himself was about to bring about. He couldn’t take it.
(1) “No!” — This is an answer, voiced for himself to hear physically, regarding an internal agonizing dialogue that he had been having, much longer than just a few seconds.
(2) “I can’t do this!” — The reasoned conclusion isn’t about someone deciding to get over agoraphobia and feeling like a failure, so that he had heroically decided to be in a place as public as a church but was failing in the attempt. No. For all his fear, his words were way too deliberate to be issuing from panic. The reference of “this” is not a reference to a PTSD episode. Again, note that the statement was reasoned and deliberate. He was thinking about doing some thing, not thinking about suffering some episode. He’s entrenching his “No!”
(3) “I have to leave!” — He was a heap of chaotic emotions. IF he was a bad actor – and I’m not saying that he was (I’m just using this as a lesson in situational awareness) – but if he was a bad actor and had repented on the spot, he would want to get himself the heck out of there lest he change his mind. And the dichotomy between what he was seeing in the calm worshiping and his would-be senseless violence was too much to handle in front of others. He needed to be alone to sort things out. Such on the spot repentance is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Good for him. He did it. He did the right thing. This was grace at work. The Holy Spirit working on him. His conscience getting to him. Great!
If that guy is reading this, and I’m wrong about all this, please, accept my apologies. It’s just that this makes for a good lesson in situational awareness. If you’re a good actor, you’ll understand that we can’t be too careful in these weird days of waaaay toooo many critical incidents, and that we have to learn from out-of-the-ordinary behaviors. It’s not you I’m judging. I’m just wondering about the ensemble of indicators. That’s all.
If that guy is reading this, and I’m right about all this, please, know that God loves you and wants you in heaven for ever. Yep. God’s love is more powerful than anything we could ever come up with. He wants us back. Always. If you’re Catholic, Go to Confession! Taking your own life is not allowed. You are not beyond redemption, not beyond salvation. God loves you. We love you. God’s love is more powerful. Don’t hate yourself. Just receive our Lord’s forgiveness. I, for one, would give you a do-able penance for sure. And the secret of any Confession is absolute. This is what we have to be about in this world, helping each other to get to heaven. We can be thankful to the Lord together, for Jesus’ mercy endures forever. Amen.
The time that the visitor guy was noticed in particular and until he left the church was, like, eight seconds. These things take place very quickly.
If there was a scary part, it was that he hesitated, wavered for just a split second before exiting out the side door, like he had to make one final decision not to do something.
Finally: Thanks go to guardian angels.