Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shooting at LAX - How YOU could have prevented it

In case some of you haven’t heard, there was a shooting at LAX, a major airport in California, USA.  Paul Ciancia walked into the airport and with a motorcycle helmet on started shooting an assault rifle, killing TSA officer Geraldo Hernandez and wounding two other officers. He was later shot by police and is currently hospitalized but unable to speak.
Now that you’ve gotten some background, I want to tell you that the point of this writing is not to report to you about yet another public shooting but to WAKE YOU UP! Yes, dear reader, I am talking to YOU! There were so many clues leading up to this particular tragedy that it leaves me with my mouth agape and fully enraged wondering why didn’t somebody DO SOMETHING? He sent rambling texts to several friends, people who knew him well, people who say they thought he was acting “weird” and out of his normal state. And it went on for an extended period of time. He became introverted, quiet and anti-social. He became suspicious of governmental agencies and developed an anger for, specifically, the TSA. He talked about something bad about to happen; at one point, he texted several different people at one in the morning with messages saying he had something very important to tell them and asking them to call him back as soon as possible; he asked all his roommates at different points to give him a ride to the airport so he can get back home to New Jersey but didn’t have a specific flight to get on. It goes on.

 So, I ask his roommates and friends: Why didn’t you ask him if something was wrong? Why didn’t you ask him if he needed help? Why didn’t you ask him to dinner, to drinks, to a game, something, anything, to feel him out?? And if some of you did, and he denied there being a problem, why didn’t you try harder? All of them are now saying, “I never thought he could do something like this.” Really? Well, guess what? He could and he did. Just before the shooting, his family in New Jersey called the police in their area to ask they contact the police in Los Angeles to do a welfare check after receiving a series of odd texts. They were concerned that he was getting ready to hurt himself. Unfortunately, the police arrived about 45 minutes too late. A roommate had already driven him to LAX and the shooting had already commenced.
Now two families are suffering tragic losses. The family of the shooter is suffering with shock and disbelief and grief. They will undoubtedly be judged for their son’s actions for a time to come. Officer Hernandez’s family is suffering greatly as well. His unnecessary and untimely death will impact every family member for the rest of their lives. His is the first death in the line of fire of a TSA officer since its inception in 2001.

Now I want you to THINK. Think about the people in your lives. Your friends, your sisters, brothers, uncles, cousins, your co-workers, your Facebook contacts. Is anybody standing out in your mind because they’ve changed? Has anyone stopped interacting as much as they used to online or stopped showing up at social outings they were always a part of? Does anyone who used to be talkative now barely speak? Has someone become withdrawn, seem sad or mad all the time or talk about odd topics you’ve never heard them talk about before?
Invite them to lunch. Stop by their home with bagels and a box of joe. Ask their immediate family members or other loved ones if they’ve noticed the same thing. Follow your instincts – if your gut is telling you something is off, then it IS. Don’t wait for somebody else to do something. BE THAT SOMEBODY. You could save a life! After the LAX shooting – and countless others in very recent history – that is an unfortunate understatement.



  1. Your post is powerful and so very much on target. It took me back to the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1935, where she was murdered in NY with numerous bystanders who did nothing, Just like the Holocaust, T-4, Dafur, Rwanda and so many instances closer to home. Why? Not my job...Diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so. The phenomenon tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size and when responsibility is not explicitly assigned. It rarely occurs when the person is alone and diffusion increases with groups of three or more.
    Basically it a huge reflection of human indifference.
    "In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony. One does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it.
    Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees -- not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.
    Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment." Elie Wiesel, 1999
    Sorry about the post about a post, but people who do nothing about danger and wrong is the expression of the banality of evil. Happy that you brought it to our attention...needs to be repeated over and over!

    1. You always have a more colloquial and dignified way of interpreting what I say, Phil. Two particular things stand out to me from what you wrote. 1- Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end, and 2- ..."never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten". I wonder when the shooter started feeling forgotten. Again, I am not excusing his behavior whatsoever but if we can pinpoint that moment, could Officer Hernandez's life have been saved?

      I posted this on both my private and public Facebook pages. On my private one I added the comment - " This tragic event is a commentary on how we as a society have become so desensitized to our surroundings and others' feelings. How many times have you walked by some "weirdo" on the street as if it was perfectly normal? How many times have you thought that something might be wrong with a friend or relative but didn't follow up because you're busy? I don't expect too many comments on this because it's forcing us to take a hard look at ourselves and we are not going to like what we see."
      It hits too close to home. Further, I believe it's easier for society to blame the shooter's actions on his being "crazy" or something along those lines. Not approaching it with more than a single-level thought process only guarantees a repeat tragedy.

  2. What a powerful post! I also believe that it is important that we not look the other way if we see someone we know behaving differently than they normally do. We should definitely attempt to find out if that person is in need of help. If it means taking extra steps out of our busy schedules, so be it! It could be a matter of life and death.

  3. Melissa,

    It has been good to catch up on your last few posts. You asked some complicated questions here, or perhaps some simple questions with complicated answers.

    Before my father shot himself, I knew he was acting differently. I did not think he was actually going to kill himself and his wife. I still tried to help. At least he only shot himself. Could other people have helped more? Probably... and probably much earlier.

    I have also tried to help people who I believed needed support. There is a reason that more people do not help others. One of your readers mentioned indifference earlier. Indifference is not same as passivity. It is similar to peer pressure. Indifference keeps people from helping.

  4. Bryan, first let me say I'm sorry for your loss.

    I agree that indifference and passivity are two different things. I hadn't thought about it before you mentioned it but I can see what you're saying. Either way, they both can end up causing tragic results (or allowing for tragedy to happen).

    I by no means believe that everything can be avoided. Sometimes there are no obvious signs and in other cases some people just really don't want to be helped. The thing that struck me about Paul Cianca's story is that so many people talked about his evolving strange behavior. He said things and texted things to people that made them think he was acting weird & different and somebody could have looked into it further. But nobody did. And that resulted in the tragedy we heard and read about in the news.