I have heard some rumblings that there are some who believe that the reaction of law enforcement to the Boston Marathon Massacre and its aftermath were too extreme, that they violated some of our legal protections.
As far as I am concerned, when someone is intent on killing anyone in their way, then you have to use every means available to stop them. It does not mean that you throw clear thinking and sound judgment out the window, but it does mean that you should not worry about breaking rules.
Anyone who has been sensitized by violence understands how things happen during the reaction phase. It is one thing to sit back and pontificate and intellectualize about a situation and quite another thing to be thankful that you have survived a potentially deadly encounter. When you are the object of a violent act you come to understand something that no else can ever understand.
In 1970 I was living on an Israeli Kibbutz whose fence line was the Lebanese border. We experienced almost daily terrorist attacks and I learned what it feels like to have enemies who want to kill you. I remember one night in particular that has been burned into my memory.
We had just finished supper and I was sitting in my living quarters when I heard the sound of automatic weapons fire. As I walked out the door I realized that bullets were flying about two or three yards from my face as I noticed the occasional tracers fly by.
People were running for the bomb shelters and I followed. I was one of the last people to enter the shelter as the door closed behind me and we heard a loud blast and the sound of dirt flying onto the door. It was a close call, but something the members of the Kibbutz were used to. It was not a common event for a young American.
No one was injured in that particular attack, but it was the first time in my young life that I began to understand why the Israeli's had become such fierce and successful fighters. They had decided that no one was going to take away their homeland and their people had come to understand that they would have to make a lot of sacrifices to keep terrorists and enemies from wreaking havoc upon them.
In a sense, the reaction to the events in Boston was similar to the way that Israelis react to attacks. Use every resource you have to stop the perpetrators and worry about the rules later. Few Israelis bemoan the fact that they may lose a few civil liberties while their military defends them.
Ironically, my other significant experience with a threat of death was on the streets of Boston in 1973. I was driving a cab at night and I had just regretted picking up a fare. I immediately got a very bad feeling and when the person in the back seat started shouting commands I knew I was in trouble.
He wanted me to pull down an alley and I refused, stopping the cab in the middle of a street in the South End. This happened during a time when there was a rash of taxi driver killings in Boston. He then quickly jumped out of the back seat and put a gun to my head and ordered me to give him all my money.
I handed over the meager wad of cash and there was a pause of only a few seconds but I knew that he was deciding whether or not to blow me away. My entire body started shaking and I realized that this was how I was going to die. He ran off without firing a shot and I immediately went home and never drove a cab again.
Once you have come close to dying, whether in a war zone or on the streets of Boston, you come to appreciate the response of those who hope that, through their actions, death and destruction will be prevented. It may not be a pretty or convenient process, but it is the price we pay for trying to find the balance between sanity and insanity.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at .