With Christmas fast approaching, college students from across the country are heading home to visit with friends and family over the winter break. As you sit with your nieces and nephews, children, grandchildren and treasured youth this holiday season, please consider sharing the story of Bailey Decker with them and commit to teaching, or giving a refresher course, to them on the importance of situational awareness and how to respond to a dangerous situation.
Bailey, a 20-year-old from Jeffersonville, Indiana is a third year student at the Ohio State University majoring in Material Science and Engineering. Bailey was in class on November 28th in MacQuigg Laboratory when a fire alarm went off for a chemical issue in another part of the building.
After evacuating the building, Bailey stood in the courtyard for about 20 minutes with approximately 150 other students plus faculty before firemen finished their investigation of the incident and exited the building. As they watched the firetrucks leave, Bailey discussed the incident with her fellow students and weighed her options, given there were only 15 min left in class at that point.
Since it was her only class for the day, Bailey had just asked herself, “Should I go back to class, or go back home?” when the attacker crashed his car into the courtyard, sending students and faculty scrambling out of the way of the vehicle. Bailey was knocked to the ground by another student in the commotion, but said she watched people flying through the air in the wake of the vehicle.
Immediately, people rushed to help the victims who were left injured from the crash. As she came to her feet, Bailey stood alongside several puzzled students near the bike racks, and said they were concerned for the driver after the car came to a stop, assuming the man had suffered some sort of medical episode which caused him to drive into the crowd.
Bailey was no less than 5 feet from the attacker as he stepped out of the car and lifted a butcher knife, waving it menacingly. With no one standing between her and the attacker, she was witness to what she describes as a “mixture of anger and insanity” in his eyes. The man said nothing, but Bailey was focused on the knife in his hand, which triggered her fight or flight instincts.
As Professor Tyler Grassman chased the attacker, some people ran back into the building while others ran to their dorms or nearby buildings. Bailey said she ran for her life, making it to the chemistry building, where she received the OSU text alert of an active shooter, directing everyone to either lockdown or to follow the run, hide or fight drill.
In the chemistry building, a professor herded everyone into a classroom in an effort to move potential targets away from the entrance of the building. Bailey texted her parents to let them know she was okay, then called her dad to keep him on the phone with her.
Bailey’s dad, David Decker, is a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Clark County, Indiana. The father of three instructed his daughter to barricade the door, close the blinds and went over the run, hide or fight drill. For the next hour and a half, Bailey continued to be a source of strength and a leader to the faculty and more than 30 students, including three students who had witnessed the incident, holed up in the classroom.
Decker also pressed Bailey for details of the attack, asking her to repeat what kind of car it was, a physical description of the attacker, and other details to make sure her memory stayed sharp so she could give an accurate statement to police.
Bailey didn’t hang up with her dad until OSU issued the all clear, but that, she says, was to, “be off the phone when I walked back to my house so I could keep an eye out, keep my head on a swivel and be aware of my surroundings.”
Prior to leaving for college, Decker enrolled his daughter into self-defense classes to make sure she knew how to take on an attacker without weapons if she needed to. “It made me feel better knowing that if it did come down to fighting that I would have some techniques that would help me,” Bailey told me. Although she never thought she’d encounter an act of domestic terrorism, Bailey said that doesn’t matter, “It’s just good knowledge to have.”
Decker said his middle child has always been fiercely independent and her confident leadership in such an enormously stressful situation didn’t surprise him in the least.
“Bailey was raised around firearms and knows how to handle herself around a gun, but I also knew there would be times in her life when I wouldn’t be around and she would not be allowed to carry for her protection,” said Decker, who is in his 6th year as Lieutenant of his squad. “Kids need to be prepared, they need to know the fundamentals of self defense and how important situational awareness is. Not just at college, but all throughout their lives.”
“I know this was dealt with very quickly because of the close proximity of the officer but he was only there because of the fire alarm. If that hadn’t happened, we would have been completely defenseless,” Bailey said. “My hope is that this event will generate a serious conversation about campus carry. If not for the entire population, then at least for some faculty.”
Regardless of what happens in the push for campus carry at OSU, Bailey hopes other students will arm themselves with the basic knowledge of situational awareness and self-defense – not just at college, but at every age. A lesson she was blessed to have learned from her father.
“Most people go through life focusing on the lighter side of things, which is good and understandable,” said Decker. “But there is a sinister, dark element that coexists and operates all around us about which we must, at least, be aware. Thank God we have dedicated law enforcement men and women who run toward the danger when given the opportunity, like OSU Police Officer Alan Horujko did. But when they are not available, we and our loved ones must be ready to face the evil or becomes victims of it.”
Decker hopes more parents will use Bailey’s experience as a reminder that danger can come into our children’s lives at any time, and it’s important they know what to do in order to prevent them from freezing up and being too scared to save themselves.
“As parents, it’s our responsibility to do everything possible to prepare them to protect themselves, and if necessary, others around them,” he said. “If we are diligent in that regard and put our trust in God, we’ve done all we can do.”
So whether you’re for campus carry or not, please give your children and beloved young ones the blessing of this guidance over the holiday break. Hopefully they’ll never need it, but with your help, they’ll have it if they do.