Steffanie Rivers

*What would you do if you were forced to stare down the barrel of a handgun while someone threatened to pull the trigger? Would you reason with the gunman, beg for your life or go out fighting?

Members of the Panama City, Florida school board know what they would do. And so does everyone else who saw the video of the entire event that was recorded and televised on local and national news.

Some people say the security guard who shot the gunman (forcing him to commit suicide) is the hero. But if anybody has plans to hand out awards for bravery don’t forget about Ginger Littleton. She’s the woman who stood up to the gunman with nothing but her purse to defend herself.

Littleton, also a member of the school board, had left the room minutes earlier after the gunman ordered the women to go and all the men to stay behind. But Littleton sneaked back in and hit the gunman with her purse in an attempt to knock the gun out of his hand. She missed. He scolded her then ordered her out of the room again. Let’s just say it wasn’t her day to die. While I commend Littleton for putting her life on the line for her colleagues, evidently her colleagues would not have done the same had they been in her position. It’s a sad testiment to the fact that chilvalry is dying and – when it counts – some women have the guts to do what men won’t.

Yes. I said it! And while I realize the actions or inaction of one individual or group of people is not always indicative of the group they represent, the Panama City shooting is the latest example that leads me to my aforementioned conclusion.

You see, Littleton already was out of harm’s way after the gunman told her and the other women to leave the room. She could have gone outside and waited for police to arrive like everybody else. Instead, Littleton had the guts to come up with a plan and she took action. Yes, she could have come up with a better plan or had a better aim at least. But it was enough to distract the gunman. And that distraction was ample opportunity for one, some or all of her six male colleagues to bumrush the guy. That’s probably what Littleton was thinking as the gunman stood over her after her botched attempt.  The fact that he didn’t shoot Littleton and allowed her to walk away unharmed again was further indication that the men in the room could have taken their fate into their own hands and come out victorious. Or not. But do something for goodness sake! Don’t just sit there motionless like deer caught in headlights.

Even when the gunman, Clay Duke, turned his attention to the Superintendent and blamed him for firing Duke’s wife from her teaching job, the Superintendent half-heartedly spoke up for himself, pleading for Duke not to shoot him. As someone who regularly comes to the defense of others I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never had to rescue someone being held hostage by a person brandishing a weapon, let alone save myself.

But I’ve had my own encounters with people who needed to be rescued. Here’s just one example: A woman was being verbally abused by her (I assume) husband at a restaurant. Lots of people, including other men, witnessed the husband berate his wife in front of everyone, and it went on for at least fifteen minutes. He cursed her, even told her she was stupid in front of us and their daughter. None of the men spoke up. Just in case they were thinking about speaking up I gave it five more minutes. Then I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I told him I wasn’t going to listen to him demean his wife a minute more. If he insisted on speaking to her that way, I told him, I was going to have the restaurant manager call the police. I did it for his wife and to show their daugther that was no way to let someone treat her.

And what did the husband do? He sat down and shut up! Too bad none of the men in the restaurant had the guts to do what I did. And when I told some of my male friends about the incident they told me I was crazy for getting involved. They questioned me about the husband’s stature. They focused on “what if’s:” What if the man had hit me? Had a gun and shot me?

The possibilities are endless as to what could have happened. I spoke up when I should have and that’s all I can concern myself with. Littleton did the same. She took action when she should have. If more people would do what’s right instead of worrying about “what if” people would be less inclined to misbehave, chilvalry might have a better chance at survival and the world might be a better place to live.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at