The New Yorker magazine published this very informative and important article by journalist Paige Williams about training bystanders to save lives. 

Bystanders can and must be first responders, and they can learn the techniques to stop bleeding. These are crucial as a person can bleed to death in five to eight minutes.

It is a sad commentary on our society but it is reality: none of us knows when we will be the bystander whose fast thinking and action are required to save the life of a friend or a stranger.

The number of shootings and acts of terrorism has escalated and is now called an “Intentional Mass Casualty Event.”

Williams begins with a dramatic account of one of these events at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

“One April morning in 2014, a sixteen-year-old sophomore at Franklin Regional Senior High, in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, stole two butcher knives from his parents’ kitchen, hid them in his backpack, and took them to school. He was wearing all black and, according to witnesses, had a “blank expression.” Just before first period, in the hall of the science wing, he stabbed several classmates. Then he pulled the fire alarm. As the corridor filled with people, the boy moved down the hallway, a knife in each hand, stabbing more students. He turned and raced back up the hall—an administrator remembered him “flailing the knives like he was swimming the backstroke.” One girl later testified, “I could feel that my lip wasn’t attached to my face anymore.” A boy, stabbed in the belly, recalled, “I was gushing blood.”

“The students at Franklin Regional, which is seventeen miles east of Pittsburgh, had been trained to lock themselves inside classrooms during a “code red” event. In one room, a home-economics teacher called 911 as she attended to an injured boy. A dispatcher asked where the “patient” had been hurt. “The lower abdomen,” the teacher said. “On the right side.”

“Do you have any way to control the bleeding?” the dispatcher asked.

“I’m putting pressure on it,” the teacher said. She was stanching the blood with paper towels. This was helpful, the dispatcher told her, saying, “If it starts soaking through, I don’t want you to lift it up at all. Find anything else you can to put on top of that.”

“The teacher had been applying pressure for about four minutes when the dispatcher said, “We have the actor in custody,” adding, “But I don’t want you to let any of your students leave that room.” As the teacher bore down on the wound, she talked with the injured boy, her voice tense but cheerful. They joked that he could use the experience in a college-application essay. When he predicted that his mother was going to “have a panic attack,” the teacher said, “I think she will.” Then she said, “I never thought I’d have to do this….”

“Twenty-one people had been knifed, several severely, yet everyone survived. (The attacker was later sentenced to a minimum of twenty-three and a half years in prison.) Law-enforcement and health-care professionals in the Pittsburgh area took note of the fortitude and the competence of many bystanders. Listening to a playback of the teacher’s 911 call, they marvelled at her calm and her effectiveness. Brad Orsini, an F.B.I. agent who worked the case, told me, “You’d have thought it was just another day for this woman.” At one point, the teacher had told the boy, “You know what? Sometimes when stuff happens, you go into a different state of mind. You surprise yourself at how you can handle things.”

Please read this article. You may be called upon to save a life one day.