I was standing in a familiar classroom in my high school with 20 screaming students as I held a loaded gun. Outside the door was the Miami SWAT team and they were seconds away from bursting through the door to shoot me. I was one man with a 9mm and they were 12 highly trained specialists with fully automatics. This was not a dream, this was SWAT training and I have the scars to prove it.
The high school I went to in Sammamish, WA is the sister school of the infamous Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. I have actually been to the site of the devastating school massacre and for some reason the cursed day of April 20th has always seemed to run odd parallels with my life. When I visited the infamous school, I was with a police officer who was in charge of creating contingency plans in case a similar instance occurred in my hometown. Part of this involved running training with the Seattle Police Department, the King County SWAT team and the Miami SWAT team. Visiting the site I had seen on TV was both sobering and eery. Although much of the school had been reconstructed, there was still a sense of sorrow there. It was much like visiting a cemetery.
Fast forward about two years. I received an invite to participate in SWAT training from the same police officer and immediately cleared my schedule. This was not something I could miss. The training scenario was that the security of my old high school had been compromised by a student holding other students hostage. The police had been called and the school and the surrounding area had been locked down. The goal of the day was to help a local law enforcement team train to prevent the horrible happenings of Columbine from ever happening again. It was a very worthwhile cause and I was honored to take part.
For the mock scenario, real guns were used with paint bullets. The scar on my left forearm wants me to note that these bullets were not just normal paint balls. They were copper with paint filling and hurt like much more than a paintball or BB. When anything flies at you at 320 m/s second, it hurts. I was wearing full body armor and I still remember the pain.
Throughout the day we ran through different scenarios around the campus. Each time the law enforcement teams would try different approaches. I was living every Halo players’ dream.
The climax of the operation happened late in the day. I was chosen as the participant to act as the shooter and we loaded into my old math classroom. I couldn’t help but see the odd humor in firing projectiles in the same room where I had learned how to measure the flight of projectiles.
Behind me were 20 screaming students. My gun was loaded and my heart was racing. I had my back to the door and cocked my gun. I was a ball of adrenaline and I could simultaneously hear each voice of everyone in the room while sensing the approaching danger of the heavily armed men outside. Evolution had done me well.
The door opened with a smack and I immediately unloaded my entire round in the direction of quickly approaching policeman. Immediately, the thin glass that was covering my face was filled with paint as I was hit over and over in the face. Headshot!
Like dominos, the next wave of bullets came toward my arms and hands. Uncontrollably, I dropped my gun and ceased being a threat. Before my weapon hit the ground, I was tackled and an army style boot was holding me down by the back of my neck. I was trembling from adrenaline and having the time of my life.
It is an odd human trait that we can stop living life and become content simply existing. The latter state is a salute to human resilience but an embarrassment to human potential. For me, happiness is tightly tied to learning. Sometimes this takes place with a textbook but more often than not my biggest learning experiences (and consequently happiest moments) come from pushing myself outside of my explored universe.
In this way, it takes facing uncomfortable situations like death to really live life to the fullest. Be it walking around Columbine High School and feeling the permanent impression a past event has left in the air or be it helping my local law enforcement prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, it is these moments that allow me to really enjoy the seemingly mundane.
Comfort is a slow poison. It is your responsibility to find your own personal anecdote.