Try 3 months for $3

Projects editor

I’m in the generation that did air raid drills in elementary school.

At Sol Feinstone Elementary School in Newtown, Pennsylvania in the 1960s, we were taught to duck under our desks, hands protecting our heads.

Those drills are mocked now as silly, because of the slim chance that missiles were going to land on suburban elementary schools, and useless, because if a Russian nuke (I guess that’s what we were scared of) had hit our school, our desks and our hands would not have saved us.

The mass shooting training the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will offer to the public next year is the contemporary equivalent of those air raid drills.

I can hear the arguments in my head that it’s not the same, that mass shootings actually happen (nuclear attacks actually happened, too) and that you really can defend yourself in a shooting situation (tell that to the folks who were at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas).

Despite the differences, the fear is the same.

The fear doesn’t stem from the reality of the danger, because mass shootings, for all the attention they get, are still rare, and the chance that you will be part of one is still remote.

The training itself seems practical to me. It would be useful to have had it if you become one of the unlucky ones who need it.

It seems to follow tips from the Department of Homeland Security to run first, seeking an exit; hide second, preferably behind something solid or in a locked room; and fight back as a last resort.

But beyond the practical advice, which could be summed up in an email, is the same question that hangs over the eagerness to put armed police officers in schools and other public buildings: Aren’t we overreacting?

I’m sure my time would be better spent taking a defensive driving course than learning what to do if someone burst into the office, blasting away.

My company’s money would be better spent making sure our sidewalks are salted than paying for someone to drill me on dashing from my desk to the back door.

Just about all of us would have our health better protected by a daily walk or jog than by getting a gun.

The Sheriff’s Department is trying to address a very real fear. I’m trying to address whether it makes any sense to act on that fear.

I’m afraid of flying, and I get especially scared when my children fly. But I don’t do anything about that, because I know it’s irrational, that flying is a safe way to travel and crashes and deaths are rare. I could refuse to travel abroad and skip family occasions that require air travel, I could try to make my children terrified of flying so they wouldn’t do it, but any of those things would be too high a cost to pay for a groundless fear.

Buzzing people into offices, installing bulletproof glass and hiring armed guards as if we live in a war zone are more than big wastes of money — they increase the feelings of terror they are meant to assuage. So we circle the drain of fear, ratcheting up our preparations for nightmare scenarios that will never materialize, instead of opening our eyes to the pleasures and privileges of the very safe world we live in.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at



Load comments