October 2, 2007
Next Time, Scream 'LIBRESCU!'By William R. Hartman
Ever since hearing of the tragic deaths at Virginia Tech last April, I have been deeply troubled by the number of people killed by a lone gunman wielding two hand guns in the midst of dozens of people.
Why was Seing-Hui Cho able to methodically move from classroom to classroom - four in total - killing 29 people and wounding at least 26 more, with so little effort to stop or to disarm him?
Why was the kill rate so high?
Why was there no offensive response by the overwhelming numbers being attacked?
Why was 76-year-old Professor Liviu Librescu one of the very few willing to take an offensive posture, and sacrificing his own life, to save students in his class?
And most important of all: What can I do for my family and friends to give them a better chance of survival when something like this happens again?
I believe the answers lie in mental preparation for such an event. More precisely, I believe we can substantially reduce the kill rate when a Virginia Tech event such as this one occurs again by choreographing, with professional military/police advice, group response to such an attack. I believe the memory of Professor Librescu and his name, screamed at the top of our lungs, can ignite a life-saving group response.
What if, when Seing-Hui Cho entered Classroom 206 on April 16 - as the first drop of blood fell - the 13 graduate students present, along with Professor Loganathan, at the top of their lungs had screamed "LIBRESCU!" And if instantly each student and the professor - because the situation had been visualized dozens of times before in their minds - had started throwing every loose item in the classroom including computers, cell phones, PDAs, purses, backpacks, shoes, books, and water bottles at Cho. And what if, almost simultaneously, each of them had started running toward Cho and attacking with the clear intent to subdue and immobilize.
And what if every other student and professor within earshot of room 206, upon hearing the screams of "LIBRESCU!" had grabbed everything they could find to bar their own classroom doors. What if they had immediately prepared to tackle and subdue anyone who successfully broke through their barriers.
Visualize this instant - aggressive "LIBRESCU!" group response to Cho's actions - the morning of April 16 instead of the confusion and paralysis that in fact happened as Cho methodically went from classroom to classroom, killing and maiming all in his presence. Now visualize a "LIBRESCU!" response where your children go to school, where you worship, on your train coming from work, in an airplane cabin, in a restaurant.
Can we train for such a response? Of course we can. And we must.
I propose that leaders of all groups of people - including governments, universities, companies, churches, schools, unions and associations - get to work immediately to prevent, or at least contain, another mass slaughter. Here's how:
If this makes sense to you, and especially to those of you who lead groups of people, you can unilaterally respond right now. Share these thoughts with others. Get the dialogue and debate started. You can arm your people, not with guns but with the knowledge and training that will provide the best possible chance for survival.
One final question to ponder: Did Professor Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, respond as he did because of the thousands of times he had run his exact response to Cho through his mind? Were the last thoughts of this brave man, the butchers at the door will not slay my people again.
William R. Hartman is an advisor to Chief Executives and to key members of their teams. Based in Reno, he is chairman of four groups for Vistage International, a worldwide organization of CEOs. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.