Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 11, 2013

Honoring heroes by training new ones

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 11, 2013

On 9/11, people from all types of backgrounds, neighborhoods, religious affiliations, etc. reacted courageously in the face of mortal danger.  In Boston, during the immediate aftermath of the Marathon bombings, bystanders provided vital, life saving care.

This being the anniversary of 9/11, what else might be appropriate to highlight but the ongoing work of psychologist Phil Zimbardo to grow the number of individuals willing to take action in the first place?

Over the past few decades, psychologist Phil Zimbardo has established himself as a kind of emissary to the dark side of human nature. Thousands of college students learn each year about his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which he tapped half the participants to play “prisoners” and half to play “guards.” The experiment was to run for two weeks, but after just a few days, the guards started acting so sadistically—ordering the prisoners to strip nude and clean toilets with their hands, among other things—that Zimbardo called the experiment off. The study ultimately became psychological shorthand for what can happen when normal people get social license to behave badly.

This is the “negative” side of Zimbardo’s work history.  How exactly will this help foster a cadre of individuals willing to selfishly sacrifice their safety, security, and comfort in order to help others affected by the event in question?  Well….Professor Zimbardo moved on to a connected, if different, topic:

If the Stanford Prison Experiment reveals how easy it is for people to behave poorly in certain situations, the Heroic Imagination Project asks how we as a society can do better—and aims to supply convincing answers. To that end, Zimbardo and his colleagues, including longtime educator Clint Wilkins, have devised a heroic education curriculum oriented toward helping high schoolers recognize negative situational influences and rise above them. That way, they can behave in ways consistent with their true values.

According to a principle known as the bystander effect, for instance, we’re less apt to help someone in need if there are others standing around; we may not feel as compelled to act if we think another person will step in. The hero project’s curriculum teaches students to use a mental “pause button” so that they can avoid falling prey to automatic assumptions (“Someone else will take care of it”) and choose a more thoughtful response instead. Similarly, instructors warn students how easy it is to slide into conforming with what others are doing—even if it’s something unethical like bullying a fellow student—and emphasize the importance of standing alone when necessary. In addition to learning how to overcome tendencies that may hold them back from helping, heroes-in-training get to flex their selflessness muscles by brainstorming social change strategies (helping fellow students struggling with math, say) and testing them out in the real world.

Preparedness professionals have long argued for placing such education onto school curriculums.  This course represents, at least in terms of what I can identify, a worthwhile experiment in moving in that direction.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 11, 2013 @ 7:14 am

Excellent topic and thanks Arnold for bringing it up!

There was a famous case in NYC I believe involving a woman named Kitty Genovese where she was assaulted and killed while over 200 people walked past the crime scene.

Don’t ask for whom the bells toll?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 11, 2013 @ 9:11 am


‘Twas a beautiful day,
One morning in the middle
Of September,
On 11 September 2001,
When nothing was
Going wrong,
And everything was
Fine in New York City.

All of the people,
In the city,
And across the nation,
Were all going about their business.
But, I remember what happened,
So vividly and so ominously,
That even though I was
Only a little child,
Of eight years old to say the least,
I could still remember the horror.

People were going about
Their own business in NYC,
And at 8: 00 am,
A plane
Was flying a little to low,
And crashed into the middle
Of one of the Twin Towers,
And caused a major gaping hole in the
Building, and the plane
Fell apart,
Crashing to the ground,
And killing all of the passengers within.

People everywhere in the nation,
Watched in horror as the TV screen
Portrayed the ‘accident’
That had happened only moments ago.
The Left Tower was smoking,
And there was a plane head still stuck in it,
And no one realised that al Qaeda had made their plans.

A half-hour later, a second plane
Came into view,
And it crashed into the Left Tower,
And, this time, the Tower collapsed,
And the Towers fell down,
Spreading debris and rubble everywhere.

The towers collapsed,
And many people got caught
In the trap,
And they were crushed by the debris,
Or incinerated by the explosion,
And their lives were taken instantaneously.

Some of the victims tried to jump,
But their fall came to no avail,
And they eventually lost their lives,
Just because of the crash.

Emergency units were sent out,
By the city of New York,
And they were sent out to rescue the
But some of their rescues came to no avail.

Some of the firemen were engulfed in flames,
And some fell beneath debris,
And others lost their lives because of the heat,
And yet they kept pushing onward.

Some of the victims were rescued,
But they kept going on into the night,
And they did not stop until they
Found everyone,
Whether they be alive,
Barely living,
Or dead altogether.

By this time, everyone knew
That something was wrong,
For it was no ‘accident’
That happened,
For there was plotting behind it,
And there was terrorism involved.

They tried to figure out
Who the terrorists were and
Who they could possibly be,
And what they would possibly want.
They were not any Communist terrorists,
For they would want money,
So they figured out it was
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,
Who did this dreaded thing.

At 9: 00 am, another plane
Was flying to Pennsylvania,
And was headed for DC,
But a man stopped the pilot,
And overtook him,
And took the plane,
And crashed it,
Taking his own life
And the passengers on board
Instead of killing more people.

At 10: 00 am, another plane
Was headed for DC,
And, when it arrived,
It crashed into the Pentagon,
Taking away some of the office buildings,
And killing some of the military within.

With this, the destruction ended,
For bin Laden did his damage,
And then President Bush
Delivered a speech,
In front of an angry American people.
He said he would start the War on Terror,
And would invade Afghanistan,
And he would find bin Laden
And the terrorists,
And would win the war.

The Bush Doctrine began,
And it was preemptive strike,
And the War on Terror began,
And we went to Iraq and Afghanistan.

We found bin Laden in Afghanistan,
But he fled the scene,
But we went to Iraq,
Searching for ‘nuclear weapons, ‘
And overthrew Saddham Hussein,
And started to restructure Iraq.

France became mad at us
And thought that we were idiots,
And we started calling foods
‘Freedom’ fries (although they’re chips) ,
‘Freedom’ toast,
And everything else.

Europe did not like us, either,
For they thought we were hotheads,
But Great Britain, our ally since WWI,
Fought alongside us for the longest time.

The ‘war’ lasted ten years,
Until we finally found bin Laden,
And we killed him on 2 May 2011,
When President Barack Obama was in office,
And nearing his last term.

Bin Laden met his fate,
And the Arab Spring has begun,
And the Middle East is in revolution,
And everything is won.

11/9 will always live in our hearts,
And we will not forget it,
For it is part of our history,
And we will always remember those
Who gave their lives to our country.

Peace be with us all,
And may we always remember 9/11.
James Roberts

Comment by Michael Brady

September 11, 2013 @ 10:36 am


Good points all. As the most social of all primates, humans will follow the group, for good and for ill. The herd, the troop, the tribe can choose compassion or cruelty. Leadership creates the direction. The able response mounted by emergency services at the Boston Marathon modeled appropriate action and made it easy for witnesses to become rescuers. Like most all animals, we have three responses to threat: flight, fight, or freeze. As individuals we do not rise to the occasion, we default to our level of training. Effective training and frequent drill can create the difference between evacuation or rout, resistance or riot, a moment of evaluation or mindless panic. As leaders we instill in our team members, communities, and families the habits they present to the world and the reflexes they will apply under stress. Whether we model habits mindfully or carelessly is up to each of us, every day.


Comment by Michael Brady

September 11, 2013 @ 10:59 am


There was a famous case in NYC I believe involving a woman named Kitty Genovese where she was assaulted and killed while over 200 people walked past the crime scene.

The Kitty Genovese tragedy is frequently used as an example of the bystander effect. As with many cautionary tales, the facts are far more complicated.


Comment by Ben

September 11, 2013 @ 11:18 am

It is not my intention to be utterly pessimistic, but I think it may be too late for this generation. We’ve restructured American society to be utterly paranoid about even the most minute risks, to the extent that we voluntarily impose appalling burdens on ourselves and society as a whole. The TSA is my favorite example, but we could also include the cost in blood and treasure of two wars, the “war on drugs”, and any of a number of other questionable programs.

But it’s worse than that: we’re building this paranoia into our kids from their earliest years.

For example: Out of fear of a shooting, schools are turning into fortresses, where even parents are not permitted to enter without special permission. Leave a kid in the car while you go to pick up your mail, and there’s a real chance that some nosy busybody will call the police to report you. If your kid breaks a bone at the playground, people will suggest that you sue, and some will even imply that you would be negligent not to. We teach “Stranger Danger”, without explaining what the danger is, or realizing that more kids are abused and abducted by people they know than by people they don’t. People flip out when they find that a “registered sex offender” lives near a school, bus station, park, and don’t realize that relatively minor offences can be labeled as sex crimes. We don’t let kids learn to use functioning knives, chemistry sets, and parents are constantly looking for ways to make kids safer. Taking risks is highly discouraged.

We are paranoid beyond any semblance of reason, and our kids see it every day. We’re not raising them to be heros – we’re training them to be dependent victims, waiting for someone bigger and stronger than them to step in and save them.

I agree that we need to do more to raise heros, and I think that Zimbardo’s got the right reasons for his work. Unfortunately, we’ve been losing ground for a generation, and I worry that trying to undo an entire childhood’s worth of conditioning is the hardest way to do this.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 11, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Today, as always, many prayers, thoughts and recollections, praise to the many heros, so many memories for so, so many, however reminding me as well of a report that as the morning progressed on 911, DEFCON went to 3 and Condoleezza Rice spoke w/Vladimir Putin and she advised that American forces were being put on higher alert…. Putin replied that they have noted such and that the Russians have cancelled any planned military exercises and Putin further replied that Russian forces were not responding to American higher alert and in fact lowering their readiness….understanding the attack against the US only.

Russian military command had decided not to place Russian troops on higher alert and it is said that Putin asked Condoleezza Rice if there was anything (the Russians) “could do to help you?”

Oh my, has our relationship w/Putin and Moscow changed and is it this administration which has caused such an adversary between our two nations?

I would say, yes, indeed! The weakness conveyed by Barry Obama and his almost indifference and apathy especially at the “Benghazi Massacre” and the failed leadership even from behind has left the door opened for the “KGB Putinites” – the Germans and their fast deployment Army and now fulfilling their military strategy and of course Tehran, close to the WMD which the Rev Wright in ’08 said he had no problem with as long as the “Zionists” had same…

What a perverse and narrow minded perspective, biased, divisive in every way, deflecting any responsibility to another….

We are in far greater peril today than in 2001!

God Bless our beloved Republic!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 11, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:35:04 PM

National News Alert

CIA begins delivering weapons to Syrian rebels

Breaking News:

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

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