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Friday, February 1, 2013

A Dangerous Game of Telephone

It can be tricky working in NYC and raising a child.  Many days my wife and I question whether we should commute together.  Does it make sense?  Should we even be in NYC at the same time?  What if another terrorist attack happens?  Or blackout?  What if the trains fail?  Or we get in an accident driving in?

Morbid?  Sure is.  But it is the stark reality that is parenthood in 2013.  But as we saw in Columbine and Newtown, tragedy and evil is around every corner.  So, when an Facebook post showed up on my News Feed earlier today about "gun violence" in a neighboring town it instantly alarmed me.

The first report read "Woman enters hospital with gun shot.  Hospital in lock down."  Soon after, "Woman hit on head with gun.  She was being treated and the hospital was indeed accepting patients."  All normal, so it seemed.

Either way a parent becomes concerned.  Add to that the often erratic trip across the Hudson home and you can see how a parent might become doubly stressed.

When the text alert came to my phone informing me the schools in my town were all in "lockdown" for the remainder of the day" that is when things get tricky.

When Newtown occurred last month I was sitting in a car dealership waiting for an oil change.  There was a report going on in the background about shots fired in a Connecticut school.  I thought little of it and figured it was an accident and hoped it was nothing serious.  Hours went by before I was aware of the scope.  Again, it was not from traditional news sources, but rather Facebook and other social media sites.

Today, Facebook and my local police force were sending all sorts of mixed messages.  Was a woman shot?  Was she pistol whipped?  Why is my town on lockdown?  Where can I get some reliable facts?

The answer is simple.  Get to the source and find out yourself.  So I raced to my car and made like Snake Pliskin.

News outlets are so determined to get "first" that they report as much heresy as fact.  An overhead photo of today's crime scene had a solo police car parked outside an emergency room.  I have been to that ER and that looks like every Friday afternoon.

But school lockdowns have a far different tone today then they did say, a year ago.  That is not to discount Columbine, or the other school shootings that seem to define us these days.

Today I am a parent.  These events have my attention far more than when I was a student.

A few more posts came over the wires and eventually the town lifted the lockdown and said all was indeed "normal."

Then the kids came out for dismissal.  It was earlier than usual (teachers and staff probably wanted to get the hell home to their loved ones too) so the crossing guards were not even in place yet.  I took over the role for a while when anxious kids, who had about 2 hours to create every possible scenario in their minds, started exiting the school.

"Did you hear a person was murdered?"  my daughter exclaimed?

"Um, not quite" was my response.  "Everything is going to be fine" I assured her.

Her classmates were huddled together re-playing the days events.  "We were huddled in our classroom, the teachers were scared, people were getting shot."

Oh boy.  In our constant and over-bearing response to safety we may be, in fact, scaring the children we are desperately trying to protect.

Am I saying it is wrong to take precautions when a crazed gunman is on the loose.  No.  However, in most cases we are going to be unable to do anything when real tragedy hits.  That is, if said gunman wanted to get into a school who would/could stop him?

Will we be able to stop our kids when they drive drunk?  Or when they get in a car with someone who is impaired?

Will we be able to stop their unprotected sex?

How about when they bully someone?  Or taunt peers and/or sports opponents?

It is a convoluted maelstrom we raise our kids in these days.  We have color charts of terror, lockdowns in schools, televised singing contests, and Sarah Palin to name but a few signs of terror.

It is important that we are extra vigilant in NOT becoming terrorists ourselves.

News outlets should report facts and facts alone.  Emergency personnel and educators need to make sure what they do and say is sound and reasonable, not knee jerk and alarmist.

Most importantly domestic disputes should take place in the house.    C'mon people.  Let's get it together already!!

Enjoy the Weekend folks.  Stay the hell out of trouble.  And take the Ravens and the points.

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