Self-defense a necessary skill to know during times of danger


Self-defense a necessary skill to know during times of danger


Guest commentary
By: Lach R. Liwer |
Issue date: 4/23/07 Section: Commentary

This week we witnessed a brutal act of violence directed randomly at unsuspecting students of Virginia Tech University. Seung-Hui Cho, a VT student, shot nearly 45 students and faculty at the school, killing 32 including himself.

Much has been said about the magnitude of this tragedy, and the nature of the mental disturbance that could have allowed Cho to conceive of and carry out his heinous crime.

What we gravely need to discuss, however, is how it was possible that a lone gunman could, over the course of 35 minutes, stalk through a building with over 300 people locked inside and then systematically shoot more than 45 people, the whole time remaining effectively unopposed.

On September 11, 2001, the famed flight 93 crashed into the fields of Somerset County, taking far fewer lives than the terrorists who hijacked it had intended. Had the passengers of this flight not given their lives to take back the plane, countless more innocents would have perished.

I did not know any of the victims of the April 16 massacre, but I assume that they were not that different from my University classmates who graduated three years ago. Thinking about that group, I feel very confident that fewer than 1 in 10 of us had ever faced real violence, whether in sports, fistfights, or military combat. This became increasingly evident a year after my graduation when I became an Army infantryman. While training at Fort Benning, we participated in rigorous aggression training like hand-to-hand combat and tactical field problems to elevate our comfort with aggression and teach us to think rationally in the face of violence and fear. It quickly became apparent that many of us displayed little physical aggression or the ability to act violently and deliberately. But as we watched each other and experienced this sensation for the first time, along with the taste of our own blood and the fear and excitement of fighting, we learned to control, to harness our aggression and put it to use in defending ourselves.

There is no way to know whether the tragedy of April 16 could have been avoided or diminished under different circumstances. But it seems to me, in light of the utter failure of our security and police forces to protect those students, that we have grown too comfortable with the illusion of our own safety. We must ask whether the instructions we give our children - namely, to run and hide in the face of violent threats - is the best answer in all circumstances. It seems likely that had a group of students decided to put an end to the killing, and harnessed their own aggression en masse to defend themselves, that the outcome could hardly have been worse. We must learn a lesson from the 30 innocent dead of April 16 and the 2973 killed by the September 11 hijackers. The lesson is that ultimately we cannot maintain the safety of our communities by teaching that the best answer we have for those who would take everything from us is to remain docile. Rather, we must learn the realities of the world; there are violent people who wish to do us harm, and though there is never complete safety, we can be less vulnerable by learning to defend ourselves and those we love. By understanding and controlling the aggressive nature that mankind is so tragically capable of instead of fearing it we may diminish the likelihood that a single aggressor can destroy so many lives so easily.

Lach R. Liwer is a University alum and an infantryman in the United States Army


Original Source: Daily Emerald
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Lach R. Liwer




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Lach R. Liwer, “Self-defense a necessary skill to know during times of danger,” The April 16 Archive, accessed March 1, 2024,