American Red Cross Active Shooter Training; A Story of Healing

As part of the work of Save a Life Denver, the American Red Cross is growing a team of instructors to work with businesses and organizations and to prepare community members. On December 16, 2017 a Red Cross training was held to identify these special trainers. Dana Goldsmith, American Red Cross Disability Integration Specialist, along with 20 other volunteers, attended the training and afterward she shared with us the reason she feels so strongly about this opportunity. 

This is her story. 

New Life Church, Colorado Springs; December 9, 2007I was 22 years old. My two sons were 18 months old, and 7 weeks old. My husband was deployed. As was normal for a Sunday, we had attended services that morning and I was meandering in the lobby and talking to friends as we prepared to leave. 

My mother and I had planned to grab lunch and she had gone ahead with the infant as I headed for the door with my toddler and sister close by. As my son exited the building, jumping in puddles of slush from a recent snow, I heard a loud bang. I assumed a car had gone over a grate in the parking lot and kept walking. Likewise, my toddler continued exploring the snow, slush, and every little detail of the sidewalk. I had walked about five feet ahead of him and turned to encourage him, once again, to please hurry. As I did, two more BANGS interrupted my words. I looked past my son to see a man run out of the building, holding his two young kids; they were much too big to be carried. He shouted in our direction as he ran, “There’s a shooter!” I was clearly confused and I responded, “Really?” The man looked at me, wide eyed in disbelief of my reaction, “YES,” he responded as he kept running. 

The Goldsmith Family

Everything became a blur at that moment. I dashed for my car as my sister called out to me that she had my son. She held him to her chest, shielding his head. As we bolted towards the car, I briefly paused, realizing my car was parked with no cars near it for several spaces. I briefly contemplated ducking behind a nearby vehicle because running in the open just didn’t make sense, but neither did hiding. I felt like a sitting duck. So, we ran.

Once I was in the car, my sister hurriedly lifted my son inside, jumped in, and we sped off. As we fled the area a couple was casually walking to their own vehicle. I rolled down my window and screamed, “THERE’S A SHOOTER INSIDE!!! RUN!!!,” but they just looked at me as if I were crazy and kept casually walking. I peeled out of the parking lot, dialing 911. The line was busy. As we headed toward the interstate, about a dozen police cars came roaring up the street. All I could think about was not knowing where my mom was with the baby and how badly I wished my husband was there. He would know what to do. I had no idea. Why would I have ever needed to know how to respond to an act of terror in the safest place I knew; my church.
That day, control over my life was taken from me. I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or who to call. I didn’t know what was right or wrong and I had never felt so consumed by panic and terror. Everything I knew to be true, to be safe, to be familiar…my “normal,” it was all gone. In its place, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness grew. In the hours that followed the event, I realized that I didn’t know how to help. I was consumed with thoughts about what I should have or could have done. These feeling would linger for a very long time.
As time passed, I purposefully steered clear of any type of active shooter or ‘run-hide-fight’ training. I wasn’t sure how I would mentally or physically respond to re-experiencing the events of that day and avoided any and all known triggers of my fear. Recently, I made the decision to face those fear and when I entered the American Red Cross classroom on December 16, 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In anticipation of the training, I had watched some videos on YouTube of “what to do”, but they were triggering. They instilled overwhelming terror, and a sense that I really didn’t know what to do, even now. What would I do if I had to hide? Or fight? All I knew to do was run but if I didn’t have that option…then what?

The Red Cross Active Shooter/Stop the Bleed training changed me. The Red Cross approach to training was not to scare the class into action. It wasn’t a graphic reenactment of an experience like the one I never wanted to walk through again. The trainers were sensitive to the subject matter and understood the topic was both important, and delicate. In leaving the training, 10 years after my own active shooter incident, I felt for the first time like I had control over my life again. I now know that I have options; I have choices and tools, and I know what to do and how to do it. It isn’t just the knowledge, but the ability to take back my life from the fear placed there by that unknown individual all those years ago. I no longer wonder what I would do if it happened again. Now, I know.

There is power in having control over your life, or your circumstances. The feeling that you are out of control is one that will throw you into a pit you may not even know you are in. It was freeing, to take that control back. Even after just 1 hour of Active Shooter training, I felt that power return to my hands. Now, I have three options: I can run. I can hide. I can fight. I can…I CAN. And not only that, I will. And because of my Red Cross training, I will survive, thrive, and help others do the same. With the “stop the bleed” training, I now have the tools to help save others’ lives, not just survive. Thank you, Red Cross, for taking the time to not only teach me, but to also help me heal.

Guest Post: Dana Goldsmith  
We are thankful to Dana, and others, who took the time to start the process of becoming Active Threat trainers this weekend. If you would like to get involved as a trainer for the Save A Life Denver program, please send an email to Julianna Lochte, the Red Cross Save a Life Denver program

About Save A Life Denver: 
Save A Life Denver is a unique coalition of organizations dedicated to preparing metro Denver to better identify, respond to and recover from active threats. As a community, we can do more to prepare for, respond to and recover from active threats. Even though this is a difficult and uncomfortable subject to talk about, thinking about and planning for your response to an active threat can save lives. As a community, we will be more prepared and resilient if we are all empowered to save lives. Safe A Life Denver is a joint effort by community partners to provide resources and training to empower individuals to take appropriate action in the moment, and to talk with others about preparing for active threats. Follow us on Twitter at @SaveALifeDenver to learn more. 

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross and in Colorado and Wyoming at @COWYRedCross