By Pat Remick
My knees felt weak as I grasped the cold, heavy metal weapon and adrenaline surged through my body. I didn't know if the angry trucker reaching into his pocket would pull out his driver's license -- or a gun.
My brain exploded into overdrive. Should I shoot or wait -- and pray? Was my life in enough danger that it would justify taking his? What if I missed? Or what if I guessed wrong -- and the trucker didn't intend to hurt anyone. It might take just a single shot to create a widow and leave his children fatherless because of my mistake. My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating.
And this was only a simulation. The trucker was just an actor in a video on a large screen. My gun was real, but it had been adapted to fire a laser beam instead of bullets. A guy sitting at a computer could change the scenario depending on how I reacted to what I saw in front of me and it was all part of the Citizens Police Academy's fascinating eight-week, behind-the-scenes look at police work.
Although I've learned so much, I'm beginning to fear the Citizens Police Academy experience is going to destroy every last one of my comforting trips into the Land of Denial where, when I get most unnerved about my eldest son's chosen profession, I pretend he really did get that engineering degree and enjoys working in that profession in Washington, DC.
However, some of our recent conversations have made that delusion difficult. When you ask how work is going and your child reports he was in a high-speed chase one day and climbing onto roofs to look for burglars the next, it's hard to make yourself believe he's talking calculators and math. And this week I had to ask a question that probably doesn't occur to most parents, whether their children are engineers or not, and it was all because of a video we watched at the Citizens Police Academy. What I had to know was: "Can you can load and shoot a gun with one hand?"
He assured me he's been trained in that skill. Fortunately, most law enforcement officers have been, especially after the 1986 FBI shootout with bank robbers in Miami depicted in the video illustrated how critical that talent can be when your shooting arm has been disabled by gunfire and the bad guys are advancing with every intention of killing you.
I don't think they teach that in engineering school.