by Harlin Dongbetter
A school district in Texas has begun a radical new program to deter school shooters, called FIRE — Firearm Imminent Rescue and Escape. Every classroom in the district will be equipped with a Glock 9mm pistol in a wall niche behind glass — like an emergency fire extinguisher, to be used only in the event of an active shooter. All K-12 students will undergo a mandatory 12 hours of FIRE-Back training.
I sat as a guest in the back of the room for one of the first sessions — the pilot program tested out in summer school at Harvey Sander’s 4th-grade class at Davy Crockett Elementary School in Corsicana. Mr. Sanders introduced me, Brian Hawthorne — an Xe veteran and NRA member contracted by the district, decked out in full black tactical gear — and guest of honor Lester Bludworth, the last surviving Marine from the battle of Wake Island. Mr. Sanders had the students stand for the national anthem, followed by the pledge of allegiance, then Mr. Hawthorne took the stage.
“Kids, just call me Sarge,” he said. “I’m hear to tell you, you don’t have to be victims in a school shooting. If you hear shots ring out in the cafeteria or hallway — oh, what’s that?”
Shots rang out in the hallway — Hawthorne’s assistant firing blanks.
“Shots fired! Shots fired!” yelled Mr. Sanders. “What do we do?”
“Duck and cover!” shouted the students, diving beside their desks, covering their tucked heads.
Mr. Sanders slammed the door shut and locked it. “Now I will get the Glock,” he said, pulling a small chained hammer out from the niche door. He smashed the glass with it, pulled out the Glock and racked the slide, blood dripping from his hand. He had cut it on a shard of glass.
Hard banging on the door. Mr. Sanders moved toward it, a “school shooter” visible in the window. They exchanged fire with the blanks, then Mr. Sanders groaned “I’m hit!”, dramatically toppling over an empty desk and onto the floor, the Glock skidding from his hand.
“Now we’ve got a problem,” said “Sarge” Hawthorne. “Your teacher is down, and the shooter is blasting down the door. So we need a hero here. Somebody to grab the gun and return fire. Do I have any volunteers?”
All the boys and about half the girls enthusiastically waved, shouting “Me! Me!”
The WWII veteran cried, “God bless you, kids! God bless you Americans!”
Hawthorne was choked up, too. He finally recovered enough composure to tell them that the DSDS (Designated Secondary Defense Shooter) and a backup would be chosen after live fire practice at the gun range field trip next week. But for now, he chose a boy in the front row, Jimmy Looper. “Save the day, Jimmy,” said Hawthorne.
Jimmy crawled over the “dead” body of his bleeding teacher and picked up the Glock, accidentally firing it. If it had been a real round, he would have suffered the infamous “Glock leg.” He then struggled a bit to aim and fire the gun with his tiny hands, but finally got off several wild shots of the low-powered blanks at the “active shooter” in the window, who fell back, playing dead.
“Excellent, excellent!” said Hawthorne, leading the applause. “You can all get back in your seats now. I’ll take care of Mr. Sanders. It’s important to take care of the wounded as fast as possible.” He got a rag and staunched the dripping cut on the teacher’s palm. A girl in the front row started hyperventilating. “Just don’t look,” said Hawthorne. “It helps to get used to the sight of blood. But that just comes with training and experience.”
“Thats right,” said Mr. Sanders. “If you feel like you’re going to throw up, just take deep breaths and recite the pledge of allegiance.”
“But in reality, Jimmy,” continued Hawthorne, “your shots were all over the place, and you may not have eliminated the threat in time. We might have to scale down to .380 for these classes. But marksmanship is very, very important, whatever caliber you shoot. To help us with that today, we’re honored…” He introduced the WWII veteran again, with a brief history of the siege of Wake Island, the isolated Pacific outpost taken right after Pearl Harbor.
“If we had had volunteers like all you, we might have kept Wake Island from the Japs,” began Mr. Bludworth. “But I got to say, you kids today have it good compared to what we had. We were unprepared and under equipped for the Jap invasion. Why? Because the liberals killed our defense budget. There weren’t enough Garands and machine guns to go around, so some of us only had rusty old farm guns. Me and a few others got single-shot, break-open .30-06s. In a fight, we filled our cheeks with the cartridges, like a chipmunk with nuts, ejected a round, then put our lips on the scalding breech and spit in the next round. That was our ‘semi-auto.’ Lost a few buddies that way — choked to death on their own ammo.”
“You want a one-shot kill? Aim for the eye. Goes straight through to the brain, do not pass Go, do not collect a hundred dollars. Of course, it’s a lot harder with slant-eyes. They got a narrower aperture and they squint really tight in combat. But I ain’t going to lie to you, all the Nip races — Jap, Viet Cong, Chinaman — are tougher to kill than a pissed-off boar hog on jungle juice. I think it’s their diet, raw fish and scorpions, they — “
Mr. Sanders interjected to thank him, then was saved by the bell. The students filed out in an excited mood, several boys jealous of Jimmy Looper, claiming they could have shot better. I left with the impression that they would not only be well prepared, but positively eager for action. Who said there would never be another Greatest Generation?