America is in two concurrent modes in the aftermath of one of the worst mass killings in our history . We are overwhelmed with grief and mourning for 14 children and three adults whose lives were senselessly snuffed out on a celebrative Valentine’s Day. Simultaneously, we are outraged that such carnage can continue to happen in our modern, civilized society. One of the many lessons we must learn from the savagery of Parkland, Florida, is that we have to have each other’s backs. We have to watch for the unnatural and report it.
We are dealing with so many issues this tragedy brings to the surface of our minds. Do we need to change some gun laws? What can we do about mental health? Why isn’t there better security in our schools? It is imperative that we have serious national discussions on these things. But, you can only impact those issues indirectly at best through your vote and other civic action. However, there is one thing you can do individually and directly that, combined with other citizens, can virtually stop mass killings and many other violent crimes. We hear about it all the time, but do we really live by “See Something; Say Something?” SEE SAY for short.
I honestly don’t remember a single mass killing that wasn’t followed within hours by comments about how obvious the signs were. There was always clear evidence of the perpetrator’s instability, breaking point stress level, or his actual plan. The Parkland school shooting was no different. The 19-year-old’s parents had died recently. He was living with a friend’s family. He had been expelled from school. He had been under psychiatric treatment. He had an infatuation with guns. He bragged about killing animals. He posted threatening comments on social media. Some people had knowledge of all of these concerns, but just one or two of the concerns should have caused anyone to monitor him more closely.
Each one of us should be constantly on alert for unusual and unnatural behavior. The SEE SAY proponents urge us to observe three things constantly:
* Unusual items or situations: A vehicle parked at an odd location, a package unattended, an open window or door that should be closed, etc.
* Elicitation of information: A person questioning individuals at a level beyond curiosity about purpose, operations, security , times, locations of people, etc.
* Observation/surveillance: Someone paying unusual attention to facilities or people beyond casual or professional interest. People acting very unnatural considering the setting. Unexplained loitering, note taking, or sketching.
I would add to this list: Physical appearance or attire that doesn’t match the environment; social media posts of desperation, hatefulness, or hopelessness; verbal or social media threats; illogical statements; or just generally acting suspicious.
SEE SAY reports should be submitted to law enforcement agencies. I have my local police and sheriff offices’ non-emergency dispatch numbers in my phone contacts. That’s where I start. But, don’t hesitate to call 911 if necessary. If activities prompting 100 such calls proved to be benign, but one call prevented injury or death, wouldn’t it be worthwhile? I know, we just heard the FBI neglected to follow up on a tip regarding school shooter, Nikolas Cruz. We live in a world where even the good guys let us down sometimes, but our responsibility is still to provide the information.
When reporting, emphasize behavior over physical appearance. Provide facts of who, what, when, where, and why (why it is suspicious). For an American, the age-old question of am I my brother’s keeper should be a resounding “yes.” Each of us should be forever looking out for other innocent folks like us. What might you observe tomorrow that could stop a mass killer before he or she gets to your local school, church, mall, restaurant, etc? Be alert! SEE SAY!