Last night, I had a conversation with my nine year old daughter which no parent should ever need to have. We talked about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
I didn’t instigate this conversation but I didn’t shut it down either.
My daughter is performing at a large event in a capital city and Australia is on a high terrorist alert. While a terrorist attack at her performance is unlikely, it’s not impossible. In the past, our geographical isolation has protected us from global conflicts. However, isolation can so longer save our precious country from what happens “over there”. It has already happened here more than once and a former work colleague of mine was among the hostages in the Sydney Siege this time last year. So, I know first hand that these things can happen to you or someone you love.
While this awareness could turn you into a victim, being a Scouting family, my thoughts were for her to “Be Prepared”. That this isn’t a time to stick our heads in the sand…especially when she has concerns.
Our daughter simply asked Daddy where she could buy a suit of armor. He told her that you couldn’t buy them and that he thought they were illegal. I’m not sure if he said any more but I decided to follow up her question. Given events in Paris and, as much as I have minimized exposure to the news, I knew what she was really saying. She is afraid of a terrorist attack.
When I was her age, a notorious murderer broke out of jail and I was terrified. In my mind, he was heading straight to our place and I was locking the windows and barring the doors. My Dad reassured me, talking about the likelihood of him turning up at our place, a tactic he has often used since and is a classic approach to reducing anxiety. He also told me that he would protect me and knowing that my Dad was some kind of super hero, I believed him. Of course, he didn’t turn up and Dad retained his incredible super powers.
If we were dealing with the same kind of threat, I would give my kids much the same kind of advice. I’d also tell them that our dog, Bilbo, would fight to the death to save us. We all know that while he looks cute and fluffy, he knows how to be ferocious and would die for us. No questions asked. He’s a dog!
However, these terrorists aren’t operating by the old, conventional rules. These days, having a simple cup of coffee or going to a football match or a concert, can be life threatening. These terrorists are striking at the ordinary, which means that your average Jo(e) needs to be prepared.
Obviously, a writer-poet without any military training, is definitely no expert on surviving a terrorist attack. However, I read how people survived inside the Bataclan Theatre and have also had my dose of TV to add to the mix.
This was my advice:
- Try to stay calm and think. Keep breathing.
- Find the exits. If you are close to an exit, try to get out. Getting out safely is your best option.
- Hide. Try hiding under your seat.
- Pretend your dead.
- When you’re outside, find the Police.
I forgot to mention about listening to her teacher. We know her really well. Of course, she would look after our children like her own but under exceptional circumstances, Miss might just have to do the bolt.
While the chances of her being caught up in a terrorist attack are slim, talking about what to do in an emergency is a good idea. That’s why we have things like fire drills and we just can’t assume that we will be with our child in an emergency. Or, that we won’t get separated in the chaos, like an Australian father and his 12 year old son in the Bataclan Theatre.
Indeed, the day of the Paris Attacks, we had a severe hailstorm here. I had just ducked out for a few minutes and while I was gone, the hail smashed through a section of roof. Rain was pouring in and we had to get the State Emergency Service out to put up a tarpaulin. We’ve been living in this house for 14 years and I’m pretty sure it’s the first hailstorm we’ve ever had. So, the unexpected can happen in all different shapes and sizes and a few survival skills go along way. That, in addition to book knowledge, we all need life skills. We need to know how to get through a crisis. How to save ourselves.
For my daughter, too, knowledge also means being empowered. She has some skills. She has some ideas about what to do and how to respond. So, instead of going into a panic, she can be level-headed and perhaps even help others in all sorts of emergencies.
So, I’ve now come round to thinking that this is the sort of conversation all parents need to have with their kids. Not just about terrorism but about how to respond in an emergency. Children might be young but they’re incredibly resourceful and being small can be quite an advantage. Being good at hide & seek could even save their life.
Being prepared isn’t giving in to worry. Instead of weakness, you’re actually coming from a position of strength.
If you have ever read the words of La Marseillaise, fighting the good fight is what it’s all about. We don’t lie back and let the bastards win.
Take care and and I feel we are all particularly conscious of just how precious our loved ones and our communities are and I continue to pray for some kind of resolution and a new beginning.
I would be interested to know your thoughts. We really do live in a new world where the old rules no longer apply. Now, the anticipated target could indeed be the exception. While this doesn’t make sense, this is our new reality.