On Sept. 11, 2012, hundreds of terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. On Feb. 14, 2018, a lone terrorist attacked students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The former incident claimed the lives of four Americans; the latter of 17 young students and teachers. For those killed in both attacks, the final minutes of their lives gave rise to a sad parallel.
In Benghazi, attackers set fire to a building in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others protecting him sought safety. His security detail would put up a courageous defense, but, out-numbered and running low on ammunition, they were unable to fend off the attackers. The attack may have lasted for as long as eight hours, obviously giving the defenders hope (falsely as it turned out) that, having called for help, it was on the way.
For the victims killed at Stoneman Douglas High School, there was far less time to reflect upon imminent death as Nikolas Cruz opened fire on them with his semiautomatic weapon. But, based on shootings that had occurred at other schools, they also had an expectation help was on the way. Undoubtedly, they knew if they could survive only a few minutes more, perhaps they could escape under a protective police escort.
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For the Benghazi Four and the Parkland 17, help would never arrive in time. Ironically, during the former attack, a rescue team, hundreds of miles away, was ready to go. It only awaited final clearance from the office of the U.S. Secretary of State to enter Libyan airspace and initiate the rescue. The authorization never came. Tragically, during the latter attack, a rescue force of four armed policemen were just a few hundred feet away. Yet, due to a police policy adopted after consultation with the NAACP to reduce crime statistics by not confronting student violence, they remained safely behind their cruisers, refusing to enter the school to locate and neutralize the shooter despite the ongoing gunfire. Entry was finally made when officers from a neighboring police department led the way.
There is a certain spirit inbred in Americans that in many ways is most unique. There probably are not too many people living in Third World countries who, when danger strikes, feel confident help is on the way. But Americans enjoy such a confidence, knowing either first responders or courageous bystanders will, whenever humanly possible, undertake action to effect a rescue. It seems to be a part of Americans' human nature.
We have seen this happen when observers enter into burning buildings, swim out into swift currents, rush onto subway tracks with a train bearing down – all to effect the rescue of one in harm's way unable to escape unassisted. This sense of willingness on the part of a rescuer to risk life and limb is instrumental in raising a sense of hope in one in need being rescued from a pending danger. In effect, a "hope expectancy" of rescue arises. It leaves one convinced, if he or she can just hold out a little longer, assistance will arrive soon.
In both the Benghazi and Parkland attacks, those who ultimately died at the hands of their attackers undoubtedly clung to this hope expectancy. It was probably the last coherent thought they had before being struck down.
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Sadly, it did not have to end this way for them. In the case of both Benghazi and Parkland, responsible persons acted irresponsibly, leaving the victims with a false, and fatal, expectancy of hope. In the former case, it was the Obama administration failing to authorize the rescue team to enter Libyan air space; in the latter, it was a naive policy conceived by police and the NAACP to give the public a false sense of security school violence was waning.
Joy Behar of "The View" recently mocked Vice President Mike Pence's faith, suggesting a person claiming to have a dialogue with Jesus is a sign of a mental illness. (Note to Behar: Oprah Winfrey just revealed she will only run for president in 2020 if God tells her to do so.) One would like to believe, however, that the Benghazi and Parkland dead all engaged in just such a dialogue with their Maker, bringing them comfort in the final seconds of their earthly lives before passing on to the next.