- Associated Press - Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 5

First-responders put it all on the line for us

Tuesday’s active shooter training likely took on more meaning than usual for Rapid City police officers.

It came less than 48 hours after a virtual one-man army fired thousands of rounds from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. From his well-armed perch, the 64-year-old used modified semi-automatic weapons to rain terror, destruction and death onto a crowd of around 22,000 country music fans.

In the chaos that ensued and as people ran for their lives or tried to hide from this military-style attack that would claim 59 lives, police officers, firefighters and paramedics sprang into action in ways that most would find unimaginable.

They helped concert-goers escape, treated the wounded, comforted the dying and found the killer who would take his own life as officers approached his hotel room - all in a day’s work for people who willingly risk their lives for others. Among those heroes in Las Vegas were off-duty first-responders attending the concert. They, too, answered the call to what would be the worst modern-day mass killing in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, first-responders have encountered these hellish scenes far too often in recent years - from Las Vegas to Dallas to Orlando to Charleston, South Carolina, to Columbine, Colorado, and the list could go on.

In Rapid City on Tuesday, police officers participated in the training session at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Rapid City Police Officer Dan Mertz explained to a Journal reporter that tactics have changed considerably in the past 15 years when police officers are confronted with active-shooter situations. Previously, the strategy was to set up a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team. Today, the emphasis is on saving lives, which means officers are taught to swarm a building and advance toward a shooter who could be armed with considerable firepower as was the case in Las Vegas when first-responders entered what resembled a battlefield.

If there is a bright spot that comes from Sunday night’s horror, it was the efforts of those first-responders who demonstrated a level of bravery similar to those who serve in the military and risk their lives for others.

Their physical and mental toughness likely does not come naturally as few people are willing to charge into a hail of gunfire screaming down from the skies. Yet, they do it out of a sense of duty, which they do on a smaller yet also dangerous scale while patrolling the streets of Rapid City or any other community in this state or nation.

Danger can always be just around the corner. If it wasn’t for those willing to put their lives on the line to protect and serve, chaos would eventually consume us.

All first-responders are live-savers and deserve support and praise from a grateful public.

___

American News, Aberdeen, Oct. 4

Roadways turn dangerous during harvest time

If you want a visual and were at Saturday’s homecoming parade for Northern State University, think about the humongous John Deere tractor that was in the parade.

The big green one.

If you weren’t there, it took up most of Aberdeen’s Main Street. Think about a house moving down the street. It was a very similar scene.

And then think about the grain harvest going on all around us. Even those in the middle of Aberdeen are only a few short miles from the middle of farm country.

That big green machine and hundreds like it in different colors are great examples of what we encounter on the roads every fall.

Harvest time brings excitement, hope, opportunity and danger. All kinds of danger.

Not only are the roads full of big farm equipment, but also semi-trucks pulling tens of thousands of pounds of grains such as soybeans and corn.

These days, many of these semis are pulling not only one trailer, but another one as well. Fewer trips, but more length - equaling more opportunity for danger.

These long and extra-long semis need lots of room to turn. They need more of the road to travel, especially on gravel roads and narrower paved roads with small, narrow bridges.

Same with the farm equipment to harvest all those crops. The equipment seems to get bigger, taller and wider each fall.

And think about the space this big equipment needs to drive into and out of the fields. It needs the entire road and then some to avoid tipping into a ditch. Heavy equipment and slanted grass surfaces do not mix.

And this coming and going from fields often is an early morning to late night activity. So not only are there corners to be wary of, but there are at least one or two field entrances between every mile.

That is a lot to be watching out for. Plus, drivers of all this equipment are not only concerned about the turn they are making, but location of other drivers, shifting down and the correct positioning of their vehicle. It is a lot to focus on in a few seconds’ time.

And all it takes is a few seconds to change someone’s life forever.

And when these semis and big farm equipment prepare to turn, they need to start slowing down well before they turn. So a mile before their actual turn as they start to slow, that is about the same time the cussing begins sometimes of the driver or drivers behind them.

Every turn is an adventure, especially on narrow roads or field entrance approaches.

Yes, farmers, their workers and semi-drivers need to use extreme caution. But so do drivers in regular-sized vehicles.

Patience, focus and defensive driving are some of the best virtues to have when driving during harvest time.

Yes, you will be inconvenienced.

It is not uncommon for us to have traffic backed up for a long ways due to vehicles following farm equipment or semis that can’t be passed.

It is not uncommon to find a lot of traffic where there is very little at other times of year.

It is not uncommon to come upon lines of semis on the road.

But this too will pass, even when we can’t. Often, when it seems like we are being delayed by hours, it is only minutes.

And plus, you don’t want to use road rage or take a stupid chance against farm equipment or semis.

Remember how big that stuff is compared to the vehicle you are driving. If you have an accident involving such big equipment, you are likely to be the loser.

And your life and the lives of others are way more precious than a few minutes of your time.

___

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Oct. 2

Fear And Dying In Las Vegas

Here’s a fairly safe bet: Practically everyone knows someone who’s been to Las Vegas.

That means there are countless sidebars of shock to the horrifying massacre that happened there late Sunday night.

As of this writing, at least 58 people were dead and more than 500 were injured after a heavily armed gunman began firing on a concert crowd from the 32nd story of a nearby hotel. Audio from the incident sounds like it was recorded in a war zone, with a drum roll of machine gun fire wrapped around terrified screams. The suspected assailant reportedly had at least 10 guns with him when police entered his hotel room. (The suspect killed himself.)

It was, as President Trump noted Monday, an “act of pure evil.”

Unfortunately, we’ve all seen this kind of evil perpetrated before. And you know the debates that are coming - that have already started, in fact - about guns and mass casualties, and what we can or won’t do.

But for today, in this space, let’s talk about something else:

Should we live in fear?

Should we be afraid to attend events that draw large crowds - the Las Vegas concert festival had a reported 23,000 people on hand Sunday night when the gunman started shooting - and represent what experts call “soft targets”? No matter how much security is on hand, there is not enough to make these places 100 percent safe. (And no place may be “softer” than Vegas, which draws tens of millions of visitors each year, and literally non-stop.)

Innumerable soft targets could be found all across this nation literally every day. It could be a mall; it could be a playground; it could be a movie theatre . all of which should sound familiar, because massacres have occurred at all those venues.

Is anything safe? Is a sporting event a prime target? How about a Black Friday shopping crowd during the upcoming holiday season?

So, should we live in fear?

The best answer is a very basic observation: Living in fear is not living at all. It means always being afraid of the shadows, being afraid of the people next to you, being afraid of each new day .

And that isn’t living.

While America has had more than its share of gun violence and mass shootings, we’ve also been quite fortunate, in a sense. We’re really a society of soft targets, and yet, there have been little in the way of attacks similar to what transpired in Vegas. We can thank our law enforcement and overall national security for that. However, even relentless vigilance isn’t flawless. It can’t be, not if we still want to consider ourselves an open society.

And that’s the point, even at this dark hour. We cannot live in terror of what might happen. We cannot live in fear of fear itself, to borrow a phrase. In that respect, if we surrender to shadows of what might be, we become something else, something different.

There WILL be a lot to discuss regarding gun issues in the days and weeks to come, as there needs to be. It’s essential to engage in those discussions freely and vigorously, because that’s what open societies are all about. The alternative means we allow the shadows to become menacing fixtures in our lives and we embrace the fear. And that is completely unacceptable.

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