Book Review: Seconds to Live or Die

When seconds count, freezing isn’t an option.

by posted on October 9, 2020
Seconds To Live Or Die

I was sitting around a table chatting with friends, eating pizza and drinking seltzers, when one of my girlfriends said, “I hate when people put advertisements on my windshield. I feel like I’m about to be kidnapped.” All of the women nodded in agreement while our guy friends had no idea what she was talking about. “How is an ad on your car going to get you kidnapped?”

That fact is, ladies, men just don’t worry about the same things we do. They don’t notice the social media posts, news headlines, etc. dictating the latest kidnapping schemes, such as pulling an unsuspecting woman into a van while she is reading an innocuous flyer.

One friend nervously laughed and said, “There’s no way that actually happens.” But it does. Every day, the women in your life practice situational awareness in public. I won’t park next to a van or SUV on my driver’s side. I use the easy access pocket on my purse for pepper spray, not my phone. Millions of other women do the same thing. And if you’re not, Robert Montgomery’s Seconds to Live or Die will make you start.

A retired Marine and CIA officer, Montgomery details situational awareness and much more in this guide to self-preservation in the face of unexpected violence. He covers home-security, self-defense, concealed carry and travel tips that I think everyone should know. A few infamous serial killers are also mentioned, perhaps to spook the reader into taking his advice seriously.

Many people wonder why women especially enjoy true-crime podcasts, documentaries and TV shows. I’ve heard it equated to a chicken loving Iron Chef, as women are usually the victims. I think it has something to do with our survival instincts. Learning everything we can about serial killers is subconscious reconnaissance. We are studying the enemy. Say what you will about our “unhealthy obsession with death,” but I won’t be the one to help a handsome man with a sling carry groceries to his car.

You think you know how you’ll react in a crisis situation. You think in “justs.” I’ll just run away. I’ll just escape. However, Montgomery explains why you should learn calming breathing exercises, make a plan and practice defensive maneuvers to effectively protect yourself.

One night in college, a male friend and I were walking toward a late-night Japanese restaurant after an all-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We had been imbibing, but neither of us were overly intoxicated. Then suddenly, just 20 feet away at the street corner to our left, two shots rang out. People were sprinting away in different directions, screaming. I froze like a pointing dog. I faced the direction of the noise and my body was completely still. My friend had instinctually sprinted forward, but he came back and grabbed my wrist to pull me forward as well.

My guard was down. I was with a trusted male friend in a well-lit and highly populated area. I was feeling warm and fuzzy, and my mind was set on a grilled teriyaki bowl, not scoping out danger. I was in shock when I heard gunshots so close to me. Luckily for me, the shooter had a specific target, and he was not aiming into the crowd. However, two people were injured: the target and an innocent bystander.

There are no “justs” in a real-life, dangerous situation. Self-preservation isn’t optional if someone attacks you. What is optional, is preparing for the worst so that if it happens to you, you’ll know what to do. After the shooting on St. Patrick’s Day, I made a promise to myself that I would never freeze like that again.

Seconds to Live or Die will give other women the opportunity to make that promise to themselves, before they fail to act in a risky situation. Take the time to read this book, attend a class or create a plan while it’s still optional.

Seconds to Live or Die is available in various formats through Amazon.com. 

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