On Aug. 6, 1977, Korean Air 801 crashed into the side of a mountain, killing almost everyone onboard. It was not a mechanical error because the plane was in good condition. The weather was bad, but not too bad. The National Transportation Safety Board deemed the crash was caused by poor communication between the flight crew. Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers,” attributes the crash to what he calls cultural legacy.
Why am I talking about an accident that occurred over 40 years ago? I believe understanding the risk of poor communication and our cultural legacy is important to our API community’s safety today. We don’t want to be disrespectful to our elders, and so we stay silent. We don’t want to stand out in a negative way, so we try to remain invisible.
We are living in a time where violence and hatred are being seen as OK to those who are angry and want to lash out. Even in a state like California, which is seen as progressive and has cities that you would deem safe, there is evidence of this anger and hatred. The Monterey Park Lunar New Year shooting and the vandalism at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Church in Little Tokyo have touched our API communities.
Now in the city that I live in and a temple that Aiden and I have spoken at, someone has burned the Pride flag that the Pasadena Buddhist Temple has displayed for many years. For the first time, PBT decided to lock the doors of its temple during Sunday morning services. ITS MEMBERS DO NOT FEEL SAFE.
Safety has become so critical that PFLAG National, an organization that I also serve as a member of its President’s Advisory Council, sponsored an Active Shooter Training. Sometimes, I just think it can’t happen to me … it is out there in other states and cities, but now I see that I can’t bury my head in the sand. It is something that I have to face. We can’t avoid talking about hard things as businesses, churches, schools are being targeted. NO PLACE FEELS SAFE.
And so my husband and I attended an information session that PFLAG San Gabriel Valley API put together because three of our board members attended this Active Shooter Training. I attended very apprehensively. I didn’t want to think about it happening at a PFLAG meeting or in the JA community. I asked Tad to attend because he owns a hair salon called In Vogue. Tad said the information was helpful. I walked away feeling more empowered because I had more information as well.
Aiden and Mary attended, too, and as educators, they have trainings like this. The action that they have been given is … RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
The training that PFLAG SGV API attended was broken down a little further, not in the order of action, but in a way to remember. It was called ALICE training. To get the complete information, you must attend the training, so my disclaimer is that this is just a summary.
A = Be Alert and Aware of your surroundings. Does someone look suspicious or out of place?
Are they wearing heavy clothing or carrying a large bag in hot weather that can conceal a weapon? SAY SOMETHING …
L = Lockdown. Our PFLAG SGV API meetings will now be locked down after a reasonable amount of time. Curtains on windows will be closed.
I = Be Informed. Continue to educate yourself on ways to be safe.
C = Counter. If you can’t first RUN or HIDE, then do what you can to confuse the shooter. Throw things or yell in a loud voice. Do not throw it at the shooter, but in a different direction to distract them, so someone may have time to tackle them and take away their gun.
E = Evacuate. This should be your first thought. Where are the exits in your building? Point them out in the beginning of your meeting. Keep those exits clear so people can escape. I will now be aware of any exits that I can run out of should I need to at a moment’s notice.
Our Asian culture has taught us to NOT be the nail that sticks out, or we will get hammered down. Or not to do anything to dishonor our family or disrespect our elders. But in the world today, I know I must speak up if I see anything that appears wrong. I must be aware of my surroundings and the people around me. And I must be brave, even at the risk of being wrong.
If that co-pilot on Korean Air 801 had respectfully challenged the other pilot who was older, perhaps those passengers and crew would still be alive today. I hope I didn’t make you more afraid, but more educated. And I hope you never have to use any of this information, but if you do, I hope it will keep you safe.
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”