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On The Canadian Bus Murder In Canada & Those Judging The Bus Passengers 
1st-Aug-2008 10:51 am
Much is being said about the other passengers on the bus who didn't make an effort to subdue the man who stabbed to death and then decapitated the 22 year old victim Tim McLean, Jr.

I want to put my own position on this matter out there and if it makes me a bad person, then I'm a bad person - but I'm not in the habit of apologizing for who I am, so there you have that.

I feel awful for the victim and his family. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have such a thing happen to you, to your loved one, and to have to suffer the agony not only of the event itself but also of the press coverage it has garnered before the victim was even properly identified. It is heartbreaking and I wished there were something that could have been done to prevent this tragedy. I cannot imagine that there are many who feel differently. Where the turn in the road happens for me is in taking action against the assailant exacting this horrific crime and judging those who tried to escape from the scene before they became the next victims.

I find it really disturbing that people are judging the other passengers so harshly for not trying to stop this man. In fact, the demonization of the passengers who fled the bus is sickening. Mostly because until that's you in the situation, you cannot speak to that - only to what you MIGHT do were this situation unfolding differently. Comparisons were made to the 9/11 passengers that overtook the terrorists in the Pennsylvania crash, which I also find an unfair comparison as those people had the time and presence of mind to organize and make an informed decision as a group - not the case here. To say nothing of the way this event came into play. The man was quiet and a bit suspicious, but come on - who really imagines something like this is about to happen ANYWHERE, let alone on a quiet bus ride through rural Canada? When the attack began, there was no warning at all, it was immediate. The victim was likely dead by all accounts before the last remaining passenger exited the bus.

Let's also take into account the attacker for a moment. By eyewitness accounts he was a large and powerful man, over 6' tall and at the very least 200 lbs. He was also savagely attacking someone defenseless with a rather large hunting style knife, which according to witnesses was as large as a butcher's knife. In order to do what he did to the victim, he was clearly a sociopath in the throes of a psychotic episode, whether or not he intended to carry the act as far as he did is anyone's guess.

In the split second that such mayhem breaks out around you, anyone within reach could have been just as violently attacked. He could have just been getting started for all we know. There were parents of small children on this bus and people screaming and scrambling to get out in a panic. In the instant that such a thing breaks out, this savage and unthinkable murder begins in full view, are you REALLY going to react to it with indifference and dispassionate apathy? Are you really of the presence of mind to intervene, possibly risking your own life and almost certainly risking grave injury to yourself and possibly others in this exact same scenario? Can you assume all of that responsibility for yourself and possibly others in a matter of seconds? If your answer is "YES", then it is a damned shame you weren't on that bus, Superman.

My answer speaking only for myself in this or a similar situation is an unequivocal "NO". Certainly not in an instance where it is total panic and chaos, and not against an attacker that could easily overpower me. It would always be a different answer in different circumstances, taking into consideration advantages and disadvantages, and the timing of the act. When you are totally taken by surprise, there's really no telling how you might react. It's all fine and well to imagine what you THINK you might do, but it's an entirely different reality when such a thing comes down on you.

I have dozens of close friends and family members, some of whom are reading this as you all are. Several nieces and nephews varying in ages from 15 to 1 year(s) old. I have a responsibility to take the best care possible of not just them but also of myself so that I can be there FOR them, WITH them, an active part of their lives. To risk myself recklessly - however nobly or well intentioned would ensure my status as a hero in the hearts and minds of those I would leave behind, but they don't need me to be a hero - I certainly don't need to be one either - they need me to be alive and show up when I'm needed and wanted. They need me here and able to function when it is necessary because anything can and will happen to call you home for difficult duties.

If I found myself in an instance where I believed my intervention would help someone who is being hurt or victimized, and figured my own life is unlikely to be compromised, of course I would make a choice to help - but in an identical situation like the one in Canada on Wednesday, I cannot make that choice and I don't think most would choose differently when push comes to shove. I would never say that the actions of one intervening in this situation would be less than heroic, or that they would be foolish. I'm saying that if you weren't on that bus and didn't have that experience, yet you feel yourself fit to make judgments on those who were and ran for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, that's rather assholish of you and I really hope you never have to experience such a thing as this in order to prove either your hypocrisy or the courage of your convictions.
1st-Aug-2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
Your assessment that the victim was probably dead before the last person left is most likely correct. I'm afraid there was no hope for that poor young man. By them (the passenger in front of the victim)getting everyone else safely off the bus, and then the bus driver securing the bus so the guy could not leave saved many lives.
1st-Aug-2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
I agree with you completely on all points. There is no way in hell I'd have the presence of mind to form any sort of thought besides 'RUN AWAY!'
1st-Aug-2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
Precisely, to all of this. Which is what I meant before, too - I'd like to think I'd jump right in and help, but I can't say for sure that I would simply because that's scary. Someone that crazy isn't going to listen to "put the knife down" or any such tripe; you'd have to be able to physical attack him, and get around the weapon in doing so.

Comparisons were made to the 9/11 passengers that overtook the terrorists in the Pennsylvania crash, which I also find an unfair comparison as those people had the time and presence of mind to organize and make an informed decision as a group - not the case here.

It is so not the same. The biggest reason is that if you're on a bus on the ground, you can escape with no injuries or just a few even if it's still in motion. If you're on a plane and it goes down, you're going to die no matter who takes it down. So you really have no choice but to TRY to overpower the attacker responsible for taking it down, because not doing so definitely means death.
1st-Aug-2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
OK, you make me happy I avoid most news like the plague. What kind of a person would make such accusations against the other passengers on the bus? They're victims, too, even if they were untouched physically!
1st-Aug-2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
I think that blaming the other passengers is just the result of not really thinking it through. I'll admit, when I first read the article, and the part about the passengers vacating the bus while the stabbing was still going on, I did a “…” but by the end of the article, after I'd have time to sort of absorb it, I don't doubt I would have done the same thing in their situation — get the hell off as fast as possible.

It's easy to sit back and judge others for what they did in what had to be the most horrific instance of their entire lives from the comfort of your home/office. But you can not possibly know what you would do in the same situation until, God forbid, you'd go through it yourself.
1st-Aug-2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
From what I've read, the assailant had a pretty big knife. Most of those passengers wouldn't have been armed at all and some of them were traveling with small children. There wouldn't have been anything they could have done except add to his victim count.

Even law enforcement will tell you that you're better off getting clear if you can or letting the criminal do what he's doing because interference can only escalate things.

I've BEEN in that position. It's not a good place to be but it really is the only thing you can do. That kid was doomed from the moment the assailant started killing him. Why add to the body count?
1st-Aug-2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
Totally agree. I don't blame anyone for doing something that will save their own life.
1st-Aug-2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
Too bad nobody was carrying a concealed firearm.
2nd-Aug-2008 12:25 am (UTC)
I kept thinking to myself "This would NEVER have happened in Texas." Someone - or five someones -would have shot that mentally ill fellow right quick.

2nd-Aug-2008 05:31 pm (UTC) - texas vs canada
in texas the mentally ill fellow might as easily have had a gun as a knife, and could have killed many more people before somebody else might have had the opportunity to take him out.

i feel lots safer in canada than i ever felt in the US, where roommates of mine were waving guns at each other when they were having a lover's tiff, and in the house next to me somebody was killed by a drive-by shooter. spare me from every random idiot having a gun -- the chances that i am killed by a knife-wielding attacker in canada are a heck of a lot lower than getting killed by a gunshot in the US.

to the biscuit:

exactly. we all make such decisions in the heat of the moment and don't know precisely how we would act, and it's presumptuous to pretend one can know how they should act for anyone else. i actually have run into a burning building to rescue animals, and i have defended myself from attackers (who had no weapons), but some measure of risk assessment goes into how i act, and if i don't immediately see a chance in hell that i can affect the situation without killing myself, i'll run away. in this situation i am pretty sure i would have run, and not attacked the big, crazy guy with the knife.

what would change that equation is whether he was attacking a loved one. in that case i might throw my own life into the balance -- but i sure as hell wouldn't blame anyone else if they didn't.
3rd-Aug-2008 04:01 pm (UTC) - Re: texas vs canada
Well, those are all very good points. I concur.
3rd-Aug-2008 12:48 am (UTC)
I doubt it would have been much help. From the sound of it, there was chaos, with panicked people scrambling full-tilt boogie for the exit. How likely is it that someone with a concealed would be able to get a clear shot without risking harming some other poor bastard?
1st-Aug-2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this.

I had smoke coming out of my ears last night reading post after post along the lines of "I'm only 5'3" and weigh 97 pounds but I would have at least TRIED."

Suuuuure you would.

As humans, we've got self-preservation hardwired into us, we can't help it. The thought required to rationalize ourselves out of fleeing, assess the situation, figure out the best approach... all that takes time that the passengers didn't have until they were OUTSIDE the bus. By that time, the poor guy was dead and nothing left to do but keep the murderer in the bus, which they did.

(But this doesn't seem to be a thing one can tell most people. They sincerely believe they know how they'd react and they can go on believing that forever, if it's never put to the test.)
1st-Aug-2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
I agree with you completely. If I were one of the passengers, my first instincts would be to flee immediately!
1st-Aug-2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean to create such a hooplah. Sorry.
1st-Aug-2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
No babe, not at all. You're just as entitled to your opinion as anyone else is, and if you aren't than no one else is either. I was just expressing my thoughts on the matter as well.
1st-Aug-2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Mwah.

I guess my initial reaction come from being a similar situation a very long time ago involving a knife and a mentally deranged individual (other than me...HA). Different setting (an open street) and definitely not in a group of people. It was a robbery attempt and I really didn't think about what I did while I did it. I just have this thing about people creeping up behind me that makes me go into DESTROY mode and that's what happened with the robber and the knife. Well, I didn't destroy him, but I destroyed his testicles and sent the knife flying down a sewer drain.

Would I have done the same thing had I SEEN the guy coming? I don't know.

And let me just state again that there is no right or wrong thing to do in a situation like this. This deranged individual caught everyone off guard, and unfortunately for the guy in the seat next to him, he met a brutal, unfair, and tragic end. I think it would have been great if someone tried to help. It would have still been tragic either way.

This is coming from someone who hates the idea of legalizing gun carrying in public transportation like a certain Guv'ner of a certain state is all trigger happy about, and who is equally disturbed at the phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility phenomenon most characterized by the Kitty Genovese murder in NY in the 60s. Oh, the joy of semi-conflicting stances.
3rd-Aug-2008 12:52 am (UTC)
Er. Even though the Genovese effect still bears that name, I've also seen articles that the details reported by the papers after the murder were wildly overblown. Most of said neighbors had their windows closed on a cold night and didn't recognize the cry for help; the attacker ran away after a neighbor did yell at him, and Genovese got up and was trying to get to her own apartment after, so people may not have realized she was fatally wounded.

Which isn't to say that this very thing doesn't and hasn't happened in other situations, and certainly isn't to say that it's not fucked up, but.
3rd-Aug-2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
But what? It may not be the best example of a real phenomenon, but what is?

Edited at 2008-08-03 05:43 pm (UTC)
3rd-Aug-2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
My point is, the phenomenon may be real, but inaccurately named, as the situation and the woman for which it was named may not be a true representation of what the Genovese Effect is meant to describe.
3rd-Aug-2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
I called it diffusion of responsibility (one of the social-psychological terms for it) as characterized by the Genovese killings, not the Genovese effect outright. :/

Edited at 2008-08-03 09:22 pm (UTC)
3rd-Aug-2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
I've seen it called either. The thing is, if you're going to use phrasing like"most characterized by the Kitty Genovese murder in NY in the 60s" to describe the diffusion of responsibility, it's best to be aware that, in fact, that situation may not be a legitimate example of diffusion of responsibility at all.
3rd-Aug-2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
It is most characterized. That is the most popular example used in social psychological textbooks and articles researching it.

I never said that was the BEST example or even a legitimate one.

It might be best to re-read someone's comments before assuming they mean one and only one thing. Please don't assume what and what I am not aware of based on your own incorrect assumptions.

Edited at 2008-08-03 11:40 pm (UTC)
4th-Aug-2008 12:08 am (UTC)
There's no need to get snide. If I have offended by taking the discussion further afield and in a different direction than you intended, then I apologize.
4th-Aug-2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I thought what you said in your previous post was snide, but I guess it really isn't. I'm just a total bitch when I'm misunderstood. So there is no need for you to apologize. I'm sorry for being a bitch.
1st-Aug-2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
oh HAI, I also just realized that the victim has the same last name as me. I wonder if we were distantly related.
1st-Aug-2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Jesus! I just got cable, but I still don't watch the news. I hadn't heard anything about this until this post. My heart goes out to the victim's family and the other passengers. I know that I would've run to safety. No question. Unless I was paralyzed with fear, which is also a distinct possibility.

1st-Aug-2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Here is a new detail I haven't read about before:


"Passengers exited the bus, and a trucker who stopped provided wrenches and crowbars to several of them so they could keep the suspect on the bus until police came, witnesses told Canadian TV."

That is brave.

Also, I didn't realize there was someone else in the previous post who Anonymously posted a diatribe blaming other passengers for not helping. That was pretty cuntly of them.
2nd-Aug-2008 12:30 am (UTC)
There is no way I'd try and wrestle with a man with a knife. I'd probably try something crazy like pull the victim to safety and get myself killed in the process, but fight t he guy off? No way. My gut reaction/synapses blow-out would have been: knife, blood, violence, danger death danger danger blood danger run run run run get away get away. There would be no logical thoughts getting in edge-wise. If I were a Navy Seal or a trained Marine or something of that nature, I think my reaction would be different. But a civilian just hanging around a bus, eating Fiddle Faddle, then a knife-wielding maniac does the unthinkable? RUN.
5th-Aug-2008 12:59 am (UTC) - buses
"...judging those who tried to escape from the scene before they became the next victims."

Buses are rather squishy and even if I had the presence of brain to act, well, buses are squishy.

I agree totally.

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