Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sure you'd take a bullet for your kid. How about someone else's?

I would take a bullet for Graham.

I wouldn't think twice. If I believed Graham was facing any kind of mortal danger I would fight to the death to protect him from harm.

I would die before I let anyone hurt Graham.

Pretty dramatic sentiments, to be sure. But if you have kids you are undoubtedly shrugging and saying, "Of course. Me too. What parent wouldn't?"

We are hardwired to protect our children. It is, without a doubt, instinctual. What is in doubt, however, and what has been weighing on my mind so heavily these last few days I can scarcely think of anything else, is how far the average person would go to protect a fellow human with whom they don't share DNA?

Most of you have likely heard of the unspeakably horrific murder that occurred on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, Canada last week. If you are Canadian like me, you are probably similarly devastated and wearied and beaten by the constant gruesome updates that have flooded our media.

It was a completely unprovoked attack. Twenty-three-year-old Tim McLean was stabbed repeatedly, beheaded and further mutilated by a fellow passenger who was previously unknown to him. Thirty-seven other passengers hastily removed themselves from harm's way: not one of them attempted to intervene in the attack.

Should they have? Could they have prevented his death? The debate is raging in this country. Some say Mr. McLean was likely already dead before anyone realized what was happening and therefore it was prudent for fellow passengers to flee. Others say they should have intervened, if only to prevent further indignity to his body.

If Graham was being attacked neither stark terror nor fear of imminent death would keep me from intervening.

But if a total stranger - perhaps someone you love - was being attacked?

It is this scenario that has me soul searching. I have spent hours tossing and turning this past week, haunted by my boy's darling face, seeking clarity about the true meaning of humanity, and finding that answers elude me just as surely as do sleep and peace of mind.

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55 comments:

April said...

I haven't read all the controversy, but I did wonder about it myself. I don't blame the other passengers, honestly. The guy was clearly nuts and everyone was scared witless. I would have tried to call 911 from my cell, though.

Jason said...

I hadn't heard about this at all. What a nightmare. And the question of intervening or not is such a tough one. I don't think there is any right answer. Yikes.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I think I would do what was possible for me to help a person, but to be honest with you, in a situation where I did feel threatened, I found myself running, instinctively out of harm's way. I even had to go back for my kids (split second, but I didn't even realize it at first onset) It is embarrassing.

KEEP BELIEVING

Mary Lynn said...

Well, how about this: If Graham was on the bus with you, what would you have done? I know if I'd been on the bus with my kid (and I think there were in fact several people with kids on the bus), I would have got my child out of there are soon as possible.

I think it's very easy for people to say what the other people on the bus should have done, but it would be a whole other story if they were actually placed in that situation. I think the sheer horror at what they were seeing would have kept them away.

As sad as I am about the poor young man who died, I am also relived that no one else was hurt.

Have you ever read the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell? Part of what he talks about in the book is how our minds process information differently in extremely frightening situations. It's an interesting read, and I think it gives some insight into the reactions of people on the bus.

Mandy said...

Obviously, David and I were in shock about what happened on that Greyhound. David's first comment was that he couldn't believe no one had done anything to intervene. I'm glad I'm married to someone who is so sure that he would act. It makes me proud of him.

I, on the other hand, don't know what I would have done in the situation. I think I'd only know if I was in it, and I hope I will never have to face that decision.

Cristin said...

Found you through 7 Clown Circus.... I have a 5 year old Graham...rockin name.

MommyK said...

What a horrific story. I am sick. That poor young man and his poor family. Clearly, the murderer is psycho, why else would someone do such a thing. I'm very sorry I clicked on that link, because I could have lived the rest of my life without knowing such a thing happened.

I think it's very easy for people to say what other people SHOULD have done, but you never know until you're in a situation like that. I'd throw myself in front of a speeding bus for either of my kids without a second thought. But if we were on that bus? My ass would be out that door with my children in an instant. And even if I were by myself? I'm a 140 pound woman, what good would I be against a 6 foot tall insane man wielding a knife?

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim. What an unspeakable horror.

Kathryn said...

If someone is that freaking looney to do that kind of damage you can understand why people were hesitant to act. Still I would hope that in a situation like that a GROUP of fast acting people could tackle the psycho b@#!%*d to the ground.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I honestly think I would act.

zoom said...

The fact that 35 people WERE in that situation and DIDN'T intervene should give the rest of us a pretty good idea of what WE would have done. We would have fled, just like they did.

People keep saying that the other 35 passengers could easily have disarmed the attacker. But if you think of the layout of a bus, you know that only 2 or 3 people at most would be able to take on the deranged attacker at one time. And how would those two or three people coordinate their efforts, or even know that they weren't intervening alone? There was mass panic on that bus, understandably - it was not the time or place for rational thought or organized action - it was the time for instinct.

I'm almost certain I would have done exactly what they did.

Zoeyjane said...

This is pretty much EXACTLY the reason that I don't watch or read or listen to the news. Somethings, I just don't need them to keep me up at night.

I realize that that comes across as very clinical and self-important, even snide and inconsiderate. But the simple fact is that I don't know if me being me, I could function on a day-to-day basis, knowing all of the evilness that seems to exist out there.

Cecily R said...

Part of me screams that someone should have done something, but another part of me--probably the louder part says that if I were there and my kids were with me I would desperately want to get out. Remove them from the nightmare.

I know Jon would have tried to do something. And honestly, even though it makes me proud to know that, it scares me too to think about what could happen to him if he does.

vic said...

I'd not heard of this one at all, so reading both the story you linked to and your thoughts was a real eye-opener.
I'd like to think that in the face of such danger, I could instruct my boy to run and at the same time aid in disarming the attacker. I know (and probably a lot of other people feel the same) that if they tell their kid with the right tone to get out of the bus, the kid more than likely would.
The real problem with what I'd like to think I could do and what I actually could do is simple. I am not a particularly strong woman and whatever I may be able to do within the confines of a bus would be very little. The strength of a person carrying out a crazed attack of this nature is often far beyond that of a regular person, probably akin to a mother lifting a car off her trapped baby. In such circumstances most of us would not realistically be able to help. That leaves the only possibility left, to run to safety, just like those 35 other people.

womaninawindow said...

I think what was so disarming about this attack is that it happened with a large degree of calm. I think if the guy would have been acting crazy people would have been more provoked to act. As it was it was all framed within a bubble of quiet. Surreal. I don't think people were really understanding what was happening. I put myself on that bus a lot. I used to travel it when I was a student. I think my brain would have been sluggish. I can barely comprehend it now.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

Wow. I hadn't heard of this story.
But, I'm sure if I had been on the bus, "group mentality" would have taken over and I would have done what everyone else was doing...nothing.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I think I would have moved in to self preservation mode.

What a horrible, horrible story.

sky girl said...

Honestly, when I put myself in the situation (as best I can) I don't think anyone would have realized what was happening before it was already too late.

The chaos and confusion would have triggered the internal alerts. "I don't know what's going on but I need to run." You know?

Anyway, it's a nightmare. I still can't quite wrap my head around the whole thing.

kbreints said...

oh my god. I had not heard about that. What an amazing question. I geuss no one knows until they are put in that situation. Without thought I would for a family member or friend.... and I would hope for their sake that if they did not know anyone around, but needed help- someone would help them. But would I ? Could I step up? I just don't know.

Beck said...

Ugh. My husband and I couldn't sleep that night - my 20ish brother had spent THAT DAY on a greyhound.
If that was my family member, I would carry extreme bitterness against the cowardly men on that bus. I would. There were LOTS of burly young guys. Someone must have had pepper spray or SOMETHING.

Kelli said...

This is so upsetting. As I read this, I felt my stomach drop. I can't even imagine witnessing something like that. I would like to think I could help in some way...or that group of men on the bus could have tackled the guy. I know I would be hysterical and pleading with God to make it stop and help this person. I hate to say it, but as a woman, I think would feel helpless in this particular situation. And if I had my kids with me, like others have mentioned, I would do everything in my power to get off of that bus.

There are other situations I don't feel helpless in though like helping a lost child in a mall find their mom, or making a roadside assistance call when I see someone on the side of the road, or stopping at the scene of an accident and asking what I can do.

Still, stories like this make me want to take a self-defense class and arm myself with pepper spray or something. How haunting this must be for those people... how awful.

Marmarbug said...

I just heard about this. Just terrible. Sick.
I don;t know if I would have jumped at the guy being that I do have a family to think about but I would have tried to call 911 or soemthing.

common mom said...

This is a tough one. As the mother of young children, it would be very difficult to put my own life in harms way with the chance of my children losing me forever. However, the circumstances would also play a HUGE part in that split second decision you have to make. Is it a child? Is it an adult? Are there weapons? If I did intervene, could I actually make a difference? Would it be better to get more help before I made my move?

So many questions . . . so little time to make a decision. I have to believe that my heart would take over and I would do the "right" thing . . . the question on my mind is, would I do the right thing for that person needing help, for my children, or for me?

Excellent question - very thought-provoking.

OHmommy said...

WOW.

I did not know about this. Now, I will be tossing and turning.

I would not act, if I was on the bus with my three children.

I would like to think, that I would do something if I were alone. Perhaps talk with the other passengers and try to mob the attacker or something.

Wow. Just wow. This is horrible.

Tracey said...

Here's the deal. I haven't read this story before, nor did I read the other comments.

It IS human nature to escape and protect your own life. And anyone on that bus that had children with them had a more pressing obligation to protect said minors. In a freaky situation like that, where it is something so bizarre that you can't even wrap your head around it AFTER the fact, let alone while in the frenzy that occurs while it is happening, you will most likely answer the call for flight first.

However, it is important to remember that some people DID go back on. Obviously, too late for the poor boy that was killed. But they still tried.

In a "normal" tragedy or emergency, like a car accident or fire, I would help. But ONLY if my own children were secured first. Without a doubt.

You know what else is sad about this? I HADN'T heard about it, until you wrote it...

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

This is so hard. I want to think I'd do something - but I have babies to raise who need their momma. I want to think I'd at least throw something or try to hit the attacker with something - but what? On a bus?

Ahh - such a horrific story and I am sorry for the people who were there. They will live with this and second guess themselves forever.

Heather said...

That is horrible.

I have no doubt that I would run in that situation. Others? If I thought I could help, I would. That situation I'm confident that I would have been unable to help.

Also, putting myself in harm's way would affect my kids too, whether they were with me or not.

Kate said...

This is actually something that I think about all the time.

My answer would depend on the situation. Who was involved, what kind of impact I could have, and most importantly whether my children were with me.

I think it's obvious that anyone who had children on that bus had one single priority: get them to safety.

But I also think that we have a certain amount of responsibility to keep *ourselves* safe for our children. So if there is a situation in which I knew I probably wouldn't have much of an impact (a man with a gun in my bank takes a hostage - do I try to intervene? - no way), I would never try to play the hero - I have people at home that need me.

My husband and I talk about this sometimes because he is "that guy" who rushes over to the car that just flipped, and pulls people out to safety as the flames start to appear (I've actually witnessed this exact scenario). While I love him for his selflessness, I also tell him that he needs to really consider the possible repercussions of his actions. What if he dies in his attempt to help? Will it have been worth it? If he could say yes - then I would support him. But I can't say that I'd like it very much!

In the end - I know that if I didn't have my own (or anyone else's) children to protect from violence happening around me, I would probably try to help. But I'd like to think that I wouldn't just crash in blindly. I think I would owe (at least) that to the people the love me.

Desiree said...

As a fellow Ontarian (I'm in Peterborough, not too far from you, actually) I was shocked when I heard about this. There is something in me that makes me think I would have tried to do something.

Whenever I see harm being done to someone I have a (perhaps irrational) disregard for my own personal safety. I grew up in a home where my mother faced violence at the hands of boyfriends and I cannot stand to see bad things happen to people, even if it means I have to throw myself in the scuffle.

There are countless times where I have intervened in situations where someone was being hurt and needed help -- one situation was a young woman being threatened by her boyfriend and held against a wall outside my gym late at night. I yelled to get her assailants attention, convinced him to leave & stayed in the vicinity until they were away from each other and the situation calmed down. On another occasion, a very drunk man downtown was hold a younger man's head to the pavement and punching him. I ran over, kick the man in the face and punched him -- just in time to get him off of the boy as the police showed up. Friends of mine looked on STUNNED and couldn't believe what I'd done.

I really can't stand to see violence like this happening right in front of me and do nothing about it.

This being said, now that I am 15 weeks pregnant, I feel as though something would kick in and prevent me from putting myself in harms way becuase it's NOT just me anymore. I only hope I've never put in a situation like that again.

Phew.

Anonymous said...

In this situation, I think most of the people just panicked and fled. A lot of them might not even have known what they were running from. I think that if one person would have tried to fight the attackers, others would have joined in. In a group situation, people do not feel as much personal responsibility (i.e., someone else will do something). All it usually takes is for one person to step up, and others will follow.

Would I be that one person? I would like to think so, but in this situation? I really don't know...

caramama said...

This is why I don't listen to or watch the news. That's for summing up the story so I didn't have to read it.

I know that I wouldn't have done nothing. I don't know what I would have done. I believe that I would be the woman who hits someone over the head with something heavy when another person is being attacked. But I've never considered the situation if my child was there.

But I wouldn't have done nothing.

I know for a fact that my husband would have done something. He has in other situations. He's 6'4" and believes in helping others even at risk to himself. This is part of what I love about him.

I can't dwell on this though. It makes me too depressed about humanity. I prefer to think about that 9/11 plan where the passengers overcame the terrorists. I understand that the situation was different and there was no time to coordinate anything in this situation, but still...

Aunt Becky said...

Damn, that's depressing. I hadn't heard about that.

I like to imagine I'd have helped out.

Kyla said...

It is something straight from a twisted nightmare.

If it was a child, and it was POSSIBLE to save his or her life, I think I'd have tried.

I think he was dead as soon as people realized what was happening. I'd have fled, too, in that case.

Kami said...

I was actually in Winnipeg when I head about this. My friend was telling me and I was shocked at the words coming out of her mouth...the fact that this unspeakable horror actually happened is the tragedy not what people who were witnessing it first hand actually did. It saddens me that people are judging those on the bus. How can we even think about judging them? What they need is our support. They are changed for life having seen such horrific mutilation first hand.

I have grappled with what I think I would have done too. But all I can think of is that if I had been on that bus with my kids....I would have gotten the hell out of there ASAP. I can't even get past that to think what I might have done had I been there with no kids....

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

I honestly have felt irritated that people feel so strongly that 'someone' should have done something. From what I have read, by the time anyone realized what was going on, the poor boy didn't have a chance. So then the question was, how do we save everyone else? Well, we get the driver to stop the bus so everyone can escape.
The man wielding the knife was full of cuts and scrapes, attacking with a knife is in no way pretty, and going after someone with a knife to disarm him is almost guaranteeing that you will be seriously cut, if not killed. Even the police didn't rush in there to disarm him, there was a five hour stand-off.
After doing his job, which was ensuring the safety of his passengers, the driver and others tried to help, but were unable to without being attacked themselves.

For myself, wrong or not, I think of my family first. Keeping my children safe, not taking unnecessary risks with my own life either. They need me.
I like to think that if I thought I could help someone, I would. I am sure I would. I just don't know what I could do in that situation. I would have stepped between them if it had been my child, but for a stranger, unfortunately, I don't know that I would give my life that easily. I have a responsibility to my family first, over and above my responsibility to the community at large.
Maybe a large group of people, given the right circumstances, could intervene in that situation and save a life. But how do you organize that in the split second it takes someone to stab another person with a knife?
How do you possibly do that in the confined quarters of a bus? Without a weapon?
Maybe someone behind him could have knocked him over the head with something? Maybe. But maybe the thinking was to save as many people as possible. Horrific as that is for the poor boy who lost his life, and his family. His poor family, my heart breaks for them.
Oh, the news here is saying that it is looking like the killer premeditated this attack, that he had some sort of beef with the boy from the time he spent here at the exposition. I have to say that the idea of someone planning that attack is even more horrific to me than the thought that he just snapped and went crazy.

Jaina said...

I was absolutely horrified when I read that story yesterday. I did wonder why no one intervened...but I didn't realize that there was a huge debate about it. I honestly don't know what I'd have done. I like to think that I'd have tried to intervene, but the truth is, I'm not so sure. Maybe that makes me a coward. But I think I'd have to actually be there to see how I reacted.

Jen said...

I didn't read all the comments, but this is a question social psychologists have been trying to answer for decades, and it seems to be related to group processes more than the hearts or self-interest of the witnesses:

Oddly, if there is only one, or a few, witnesses, a person is more likely to be helped than if there are masses of witnesses. BUT if in a large group of witnesses, ONE person takes action, others are more likely to follow suit and help also.

Laura said...

It is amazingly sad and disturbing...the guy seated in front of the acused murderer/AKA SCUM BAG said most people were sleeping with headphones on and at first did not realize what was going on....

It is so sad.

Cristin said...

I hadn't even read the article when I first commented.... now I just want to unknow it...

How can anyone blame the poor people on the bus... they are all victims.. and the fact that a child witnessed this... that will haunt me...

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I had not heard of this either and I just cannot even wrap my brain (nor do I really want to, I confess) around this horrific crime. What a nightmare and what a barbaric crime. It is just unimaginable. I have no idea what I would have done in the situation. I'm sure it was such a complete shock/freak thing that most people initially panicked and by the time they startled awake to the reality of what was happening, it was too late.

Heartbreaking...just heartbreaking.

Just Janice said...

To be honest I wouldn't interfere with someone that obviously deranged. Saving myself for the sake of my girls is more important to me. I have interjected before, and even once did the heimlich on a choking grandma on the TTC. The grandma was mad at me afterwards for hurting her, though I know deep down I saved her life.

That bus incident is awful, and reminds me of how scary a world we live in. I'll be crawling back into my safe little hole now...

Damselfly said...

A tough question for sure.

fairytalesandmargaritas said...

As a parent I don't think I would intervene if my life would be in jeopardy. I don't think it would be fair for MY kids to grow up without a mother bc I saved or tried to save someone else's kid. Maybe that's selfish bc I would certainly hope that someone would intervene if my child was the one being attacked.

Erin said...

Maybe I should start watching the news again. This is just crazy! I really don't know what I would have done if faced with that much psycho. Everyone means something to someone.

Kellan said...

I would intervene - I am not one to stand by - for anything - I would intervene.

Nice to see you, Kelly - take care - Kellan

Immoral Matriarch said...

I have no idea what I'd do. If there was a chance of overcoming the man, I think I would. But me alone? Against a guy with a machete or hunting knife? I'd probably die too, and not that that's a horrible thing, to go trying to save a life, but I dunno...

Leanne said...

I'd have run. Sad to say, but true. I'm such a wimp. BUT, if my kids were involved, totally the opposite. I'd have fought until the death...so tell me why I'd run on someone else's child?

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I knew the second my first son was born that there was nothing I wouldn't do to save his life. It was at that moment that I understood that willingness to die for someone.

Stranger? I don't know. It's one of those things you don't know until you're in the moment, I would imagine.

Kori said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. We as members of this species have a moral and ethical obligation to help another in need. Period. I firmly believe that PART of the reason we have such an increasing number of horrific things happening in this world are because criminal know well that no one is going to do anything to stop them. I maybe would not feel so strongly about this had we not had an incident a month ago at my own house where we had someone enter my home in the dead of night; not one f*%&ing person in our quiet little neighborhood came outside when they heard my daughter screaming her head off outside. Not one person even opened their door to see what was going on when the house was surrounded by police. On Sunday morning a 25 year old man was beaten TO DEATH with a baseball bat, his wife was also beaten, in similar circumstances. Yeah-I could do something to help someone else in a dangerous situation. Maybe I wouldn't have two months ago, I don't know. But there is not a doubt in my mind that I could now, unless it meant potentially harming my kids.

kittenpie said...

My first reaction was to wonder why no one helped, too, but by the time I actually read an article on it, it sounded pretty clear that the attacker was way crazy, that the boy was unlikely to survive, and that the most prudent thing in the situation was to clear the other passengers out to avoid anyone else getting hurt. Instinct is not always prudent, of course, but maybe in this case the panic response was right to clear out.

Becky said...

Really thought-provoking post. I just can't believe the number of commenters who've said, "this is why I don't read the news." Ignorance is bliss, eh?

Alexandria said...

I didn't read all the comments here but this is my thought;

No. I wouldn't. That sounds harsh but it's true. I would not take the bullet for another child unless he or she is mine. I am a wife and a mother. Yes, it's terrible to lose a child. Luckly I haven't had to feel that. However, I am not going to put myself in harms way in hopes that someone is saved. Why would I leave my children and husband withot me?

I couldn't guarantee that I would help the situation. For all I know I could end up dead along with the person I was trying to save. And yes, someone could turn around and say "well it could go the other way too". Yep it could. But why the hell would I risk that?

Threeundertwo said...

I think if I saw a child in danger I would instinctively act to save it. Take a bullet? I don't know, but if I saw a child about to be hit by a car I'm sure I'd try to scoop it out of the way.

For me, though, this situation is very different. I would be an unarmed woman against a killer with a knife. I would run.

What a horrifying story. I hadn't heard it before. I feel particularly sad for the children who were there. I hope they get some therapy.

Lisa said...

I'm with you 100% on fighting tooth & nail for my kid. But you threw me for a loop with what I would do for a complete stranger. What a horrible, horrible story. I too hope I would jump in instictively, but part of me wonders if I too would hide & hope that someone else would step up to the plate. I guess I wouldn't want to jump up because I have a family at home that I need to care for. But really, that doesn't make me any more valuable than the next person, you know? Tough stuff!

April said...

I've left you an award! You may already have it, but just consider yourself that much more 'brillante'

Bec (bad mummy) said...

What a horrible thing! It wasn't reported on here so this is the first I've heard of it.

To be honest I don't know what I'd do in that situation. I don't think I'd have a snowballs chance at defending myself against someone with a knife let alone defending someone else.

That said, I did step in between a man and the son he was beating during pregnancy. It wasn't until later that I realized how badly I could have come out of that situation. I don't know if I could do it for an adult.

KathyLikesPink said...

I've just recently re-entered real life, after two weeks on vacation. Somehow I missed hearing about this horrific event.

I would like to think that I would act on my first instinct, which is to help someone in trouble.

But I have to say, if my child was with me, my first thought would be to get her to safety.