Last week for school vacation we all went to Killington for some skiing. The four of us were riding the lifts together and skiing closely in some fresh snow. We decided to take Juggernaut which is this long flat green off the top of the mountain. The snow was hanging heavily on the evergreens, it was snowing lightly, but in the upper 20’s. A nice and pretty run to round out the day. It was about 2:50 pm so getting late.
At one point the trail doubled back and there was a little short-cut through the trees to the other side of the trail. Haley loves these so she scooted through and we all joked on the far side. A little further down we thought there was another switchback. Haley ducked into the forest. Within 30 feet we realized the trail did not cut back. As quickly as I could skate back up I dove in behind her. She was nowhere to be seen. The trail had been bushwhacked with multiple tracks and so I called for Haley and did my best to follow her likely path. The forest is dense and the trees so laden with snow, that sound does not carry. After several minutes, I was worried and called Megan’s phone. She did not have Haley either and so we agreed to head down and meet at the bottom where she might hopefully come out.
I saw two skiers on the trail and asked them to keep a look out. Megan and Taylor searched and yelled from the trail. When I got to the bottom, no Haley. My phone had died but I got in touch with ski-patrol in the lodge. It was now 3:20. I borrowed someone’s phone to call Megan and as I walked outside to get a better signal, Haley ran out of the lodge crying, and rushed up to me for the best hug ever. She had remembered her training; got herself to the bottom, made herself safe, and looked for help. For Megan and I, that was probably the worst half hour of our lives
The next day I was riding the gondola with a mountain ‘ambassador’ and two other guys. A call comes in over the radio about a lost child and the two guys joked about how stupid you have to be to lose your kid. The ski patrol guy proceeds to joke about how often it actually happens. I of course sat in silence. I taught Taylor to ski 10 years ago and Haley 7, we have done over 100 days without incident, but in that moment I had become That Guy.
I live my life every day with the intent of never being That Guy you see on TV. The guy you pity, or laugh at or think is an utter moron. I often ski with my harness and a rope in case I get stuck on the lift. I look both ways when driving over train tracks; because who wants to be That Guy that got hit by a train because the lights didn’t work. I sit facing the door in conference rooms and restaurants. After Katrina I have 40 gallons of fresh water and 20 gallons of gasoline (for the generator) at the house at all times. I leave extra space between me and the car in front of me on the highway. I always have a corkscrew, Advil, fuses, diagonals and duct tape in the Tailgate box. I don’t like surprises, and I never want to be on TV for something I could have prevented.
No matter how much you prepare, no matter how small the probability of calamity, you have to expect that it will eventually strike. Our Haley adventure proved that. I never expect to be the victim of a home invasion either, but I put NRA stickers on every exterior door and I sleep with a 9mm in a safe next to the bed. I practice pushing the electronic combination buttons in the dark, switching off the safety, grabbing the extra magazine, and chambering a round. Even if I had George Soros or Michael Bloomberg money, I still believe in taking personal responsibility for myself and my family; I will not let us be at the mercy of someone else.
I will not be That Guy who walks through the house to fight a burglar with nothing but a bat in hand. I will not be That Guy who has to hear something happen to his kids or wife because he is physically unable to fend off multiple assailants. I don’t ever want to be anywhere near the scenario like the husband of Kimberly Cates.
When you believe in taking care of yourself, you don’t need some apathetic liberal telling you that the police will come and save you. I don’t want to think about the 3-5 minutes between when I call the police and when they get to my house, if I am even able to make the call. It is certainly not rational to think that that inaction is taking responsibility for my own safety. And I don’t need the vice president telling me that when the dogs bark in the middle of the night that I should get a shot gun and walk outside to who knows what kind of surprise and then proceed to empty my weapon in the air (what happens when the shot comes down?) How do you keep a shotgun readily accessible next to your bed and still safety it? Does Joe intend that I should keep two shells in the chamber at all times because it is hard to load shells while your hands are shaking? How do you walk around the house to make sure your family is safe with a shotgun? My hallways are 42 inches wide, a shot gun is at least 36 inches long, how do I take a turn with the butt tucked in my shoulder?
Everyone accepts a certain amount of risk, sometimes we try to eliminate it. Mitigating personal risk is just another form of taking responsibility for your own safety. After the skiing incident, Megan decided that Haley needed a bright yellow coat so we could see her more easily in the forest. I vowed not to be complacent on the mountain. After 911, everyone agreed we needed more security at airports. Both Presidents decided we needed to go on the offensive and attack terrorism at its source. The point is that there are different ways to try to minimize risk. Owning firearms is the way I do it in my home. Those that shoot know that it can be difficult to hit a target, especially in the dark, while you are moving, and the target is moving. I don’t need someone telling me that when there are multiple assailants in my house and I miss a few shots, that it is not really an inconvenience for me to eject the magazine, use my free hand to insert the second, release the slide, reset my grip, aim and then shoot. I am sure a bad guy would be willing to wait for me to do that while he is at most 19 feet away. That is the longest span between two walls in my house, Chuck and Diane. You can try to say “game off!” while you dial the police…tell me how that works for you.
Does it really matter what a firearm looks like? For my anti-gun friends that don’t know this, what makes a gun look like a mean “assault” rifle with those scary jagged edges is actually just a mounting system (“rails”) for accessories like a scope or flashlight. It’s like a roof rack, but certainly doesn’t make a rifle behave any differently.
For 30 minutes I imagined Haley being out in the cold, lost in the forest all night. I would have searched for her endlessly, wandering hundreds of acres until my hands and feet snapped off with frostbite. But the whole time I would be completely helpless to actually ease her pain. Let’s face it, as parents that is all we want to do: Give our children a better, easier and less painful life than we had. To safeguard the girls, I would love to employ a Secret Service detail to watch over them 24/7. But even if I did, there is no way that I would completely outsource care and safety to someone else. That is MY responsibility. I do everything I can to never feel anything like those 30 minutes. Just like all of us, I plan for contingencies, things that I can’t imagine, things I hope will never happen. I will never be That Guy in my house because I will never allow anything bad to happen to those girls. Those that really are serious about personal risk, take rational steps to eliminate as much as we can. I have done that. I might recommend that you take more responsibility because you are oblivious and lazy. You may conversely tell me that me I am overzealous, but don’t force me to do less.