Don Shomette

People are the Prize

Virginia Tech: Why We Do What We Do

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Why do we do what we do?

Police officers are required to enforce the law, all schools are required to practice fire drills, and some schools are required to complete school vulnerability assessments and to practice crisis drills.  It’s the law, it’s a requirement, you have to do it, but that’s not why we do it.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Today reminds us why we do what we do.  Today is the anniversary of the Virginia Tech Shooting where 32 people were murdered–not killed—murdered.  One can be killed in a car accident without there being any malice, but murder is an intrinsically evil act with the intentional purpose of robbing a person of their most precious belonging—their life.  No one was killed this day at Virginia Tech.  Thirty-two people were murdered.

In a small way it reminds me of the movie Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks is asked by his commanding officer how many men were lost after a battle.  Tom Hanks replied, “35 dead and times two wounded.”  That means besides the 35 men who died in the attack, an additional 70 men were wounded.  That’s a terrible number, but it doesn’t give the true picture until you think in terms of total victims.

What do I mean?

When you include the soldiers who witnessed their friends die, wives and children who lost their husbands and fathers, parents who lost their children, brothers and sisters who lost their sibling, communities who lost their members, the doctors and nurses who treated the physically wounded—all of a sudden, the number of wounded is actually much, much higher and we start to realize the tragic implications of a single life lost or hurt.


Virginia Tech suffered 32 murdered but it was times 5,000 or even higher in total lives lost and hurt which leads me back to my initial question.

Why do we do what we do?

It’s not simply to enforce the law, fill out a checklist, evacuate the building, or disrupt the school day.  Don’t just go through the motions.  We do what we do to prevent death, crippled bodies, lifelong pain and suffering, broken hearts, destroyed lives–we do it to prevent victims, which is anyone who was wounded in any way by the act.

This has to be the reason behind our reason.  If we adopt this mindset it will sustain us, strengthen us, make us do the right thing with compassion and a sense of urgency—which is desperately needed right now.

Whatever it costs us personally to make our schools safer is far less than it will cost a victim to recover from something that maybe, just maybe, we could have prevented.

Today we remember.  We are all Hokies.  Our prayers are with every victim of Virginia Tech.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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