steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*Everybody looks at news of a tragedy and wonders what they would have done if they found themselves in that same situation. When I watched CNN a week ago last Sunday and learned about what investigators are calling the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, my first reaction was sadness.

“People can’t go no damn where without somebody shootin up the joint” I said to myself. Then my sadness turned to anger: “You mean to tell me one man with a gun did all this damage?“ That’s when I started to think about what I would have done had I been there – anywhere – if somebody showed up with a gun and started shooting. That time it was a nightclub. I don’t frequent nightclubs, but I have a tendency to go to retail venues and the grocery store on a regular basis. Oh yeah, and I go to church too. All places where lone gunmen have showed up and started shooting. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight or what your political or religious affiliation. Any place could be the wrong place at the wrong time. I can accept that. But what boggles my mind is why were so many people – not children who understandably might be scared and confused but grown folks – posting on social media and hiding from the gunman instead of planning an escape or trying to overtake the gunman to save themselves and others?

I know they haven’t explained how gunman Omar Mateen managed to get past an armed security guard at the nightclub without detection. I know in a party atmosphere defenses are down. So the first few victims are sitting targets with little to no chance of defending themselves. But news reports said the gunman stopped shooting long enough to talk to potential victims about his motives, texted his wife at least once and even checked or posted on social media during the seige. Unlike Donald Trump who said if victims would have been carrying their own personal weapons at the club “it would have been a beautiful thing” if somebody (other than police and the armed security guard who exchanged gunfire with Mateen) would have put a bullet in Mateen’s head, I’m against mixing guns with alcohol use. But I believe there was time when the gunman was otherwise pre-occupied that he could have been disarmed by the collective of people who decided to run instead of fight back. Apparently we forget there is strength in numbers.

It’s true, I can talk about all the things the clubbers should have, would have, could have done that night. But it’s all speculation on my part. Still, there’s one thing I know for sure about myself: I’m not a runner. I’m a fighter. So if I die fighting for my life I’m okay with that.

I rarely enter into a situation without having thought about an exit strategy. And I never stay in an establishment where there’s only one way in and one way out. I’m not sure if there was just one entry/exit at this club. I’m sure laws have changed to require public places to have multiple exits in case of unlikely events such as this. Regardless of anybody else’s rules, here are some rules I live by:

I never sit with my back to a door, so I can see who’s coming and going. If possible I sit with my back to a wall, unless I’m with a man, then he sits with his back to a wall so he can watch my back while he’s watching the door. I always know where another exit is in case I have to get to it quickly. I’m always thinking about ‘what if’ when I’m in a public place. ‘What if’s’ too often are becoming reality. Unfortunately that means I’m on the defense when sometimes it’s unnecessary. But these days having a plan of action is necessary. Since I can’t predict the future I pray to GOD who holds the future, I try to treat everyone with respect and I live a productive life. It’s the only life I’ve known. So if it’s threatened I don’t plan to go down without a fight.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. For questions, comments and speaking inquiries send her an email to [email protected]