Inside, I’m Snarling


It s June 2006. I was cruising along in the car and heard Alan Jackson s song
Where were you when the world stopped turning? his song about Sept.11. It s been
almost five years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. And, inside, I m snarling.
I reacted that way when I saw the towers burning that morning. I m a pilot, and
I ve flown fairly large airplanes. I knew I could not possibly fly an airplane into a
building like that. My first thought was that those were not American pilots flying those
airplanes My second thought, which later was shown to be true, was that whoever was
flying those planes had probably been trained here in the United States.
Recently I went to see United 93, the first movie about 9/11 to be released in
theaters. Though based on facts, the movie is a speculation on what happened on board
that flight. I realized I was sitting in what is called the “alert position” for most of the
movie. The alert position is one “upright and forward” position aviators take when the
workload gets heavy – during an approach, for instance, or in high traffic areas and the
like. And I found myself growling again, just like on Sept.11. And I think it s a good
If you have read Lt. Col. Dave Grossman s works On Killing and On Combat,
you ll read the psychology behind why a guy like me snarls. On Combat in particular
describes people as being sheep, sheepdogs, or wolves. (I have reviews of both on this
website on the Recommended Reading page.) Briefly, sheep are prey. They don t hurt
anyone. Wolves are predators, they kill the sheep. Sheepdogs kill wolves to protect the
sheep. The sheep don t always like the sheepdog because they remind them of the wolf –
they have fangs, and they growl, like the wolf. I am a sheepdog, and that is why I growl.
I don t want to lose that feeling. I have spent my life teaching people to protect
themselves and their loved ones. My heart breaks when I see unfounded violence visited
on children, women, and unsuspecting people. I abhor those who beat their wives and
girlfriends. How can people possibly mistreat young children the way we see on
television so often? And so, I snarl on the inside. But on the outside I do something. I
teach women s self-defense classes. I educate people to use their mind and body in the
ways of defense. And I know there are better-trained and nastier people than myself who
are out there committing acts of violence on those who would do such things to
innocents. George Orwell said we sleep safe in our beds at night because rough men
stand ready in the night to visit death and destruction on those who would hurt us.
That day I went to my studio as I usually would. On the way I heard the Pentagon
had been hit. I thought “OK, now the rumor mill has started and people will begin to
panic nationwide.” When it was verified I looked at my watch to determine what time it
would be in the major cites of the west. I thought they would hit LA and Chicago. I went
to my studio anyway and people began to show up.
“What do we do?” I was asked. I told them to take a few minutes to run their
forms or practice to distract the mind from a life-changing event. These few people who
came to my studio on that morning wanted some direction in a world that now was
directionless. They wanted to keep their regular class schedule, to have some sense of
normalcy. I was surprised to see them, and to know that they turned to me at such a time.
And I hope I was able to give them something comforting. I was beside myself when I saw what happened. I did what many did. I hung up a
flag that very day. I started a fund-raiser for the firemen in New York. I looked into
becoming a sky marshal and found I was 2 years over the upper age limit for new
Still, I wanted to do more, and in the words of LTC Grossman said, ”move toward
the sound of the guns”. I found that my skills were needed by the Civil Air Patrol and I
have volunteered my time since. In case you didn t know, the CAP had the first aircraft
over the Trade Center site after the attack and transmitted the first aerial photos of the
disaster. I continue to teach, of course, and now I also can be of use during hurricane
recovery efforts and search and rescue operations. I was glad to find there are a lot of us
out there – old sheepdogs – and while we smile more than growl, it s good to know we
still have some bite.

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