As I sit and write this, I’m on vacation. I am currently down the shore, on my favorite couch on the front porch, with a cup of coffee to my left, and my dog curled up sleeping to my right. This is how I’ve spent every morning this week, catching up on the news, checking my Twitter feed, and anxiously awaiting news on #WeberWatch. This morning wasn’t very different, with the exception of the fact that when I woke up and started reading the news and my Twitter feed, I learned that last night, in Aurora, CO, an armed individual had opened fire in a crowded movie theater last night during opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring many, many others. He let off a few smoke bombs, then senselessly and needlessly shot people. People he didn’t even know, people who were simply looking to escape reality for a couple of hours and enjoy a much-anticipated movie. Expecting to read about whether or not Shea Weber would be joining my beloved Flyers on the ice this season, I was smacked in the face with the very real fact that we, as a country, are once again facing tragedy. I may live on the other side of the country from where this tragedy occurred, but I think it touches all of us.
It isn’t often that I feel compelled to take to this site to comment on current events – more often than not I am sharing personal anecdotes, my views on random situations, and just silly bullshit. I cannot, however, keep my thoughts on this tragedy to myself. When I read the first tweet on my feed mentioning the Aurora shootings this morning, my first thought was “Not again.” Could it be possible that once again, some random lunatic had decided to violently end the lives of others indiscriminately and without reason? Having grown up and lived through senseless tragedies such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, Columbine, 9/11, and the VA Tech shootings, you’d think I’d be desensitized. I’m not. I am not “used to” the idea that people are capable of such evil. I may not have much faith in humanity for a veritable cornucopia of other reasons, but I’m of the line of thinking that human life is sacred.
I am lucky enough to not be connected to any of the Aurora victims. I have been spared the heart and soul-wrenching feeling of losing a loved one, or getting a phone call in the middle of the night informing me someone I care about has been rushed to the hospital and may not make it, all because some asshole with a gun and a bug up his ass thought it was a good night for a killing spree. The thing that keeps nagging me, however, it that it COULD HAVE BEEN. I could have been one of those people whose lives will be forever changed, one of those left with a void that can’t be filled, a spot in my heart where a friend or family member occupied before they were taken from me too soon. Any one of us could have gotten that call. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were chock-full of friends and family who were headed off to the opening night midnight showing of this movie. Even worse, any single one of us could have been in that darkened theater, unaware of the fate that awaited us once the lights went down.
The moment James Holmes decided to open fire in that theater, Aurora, Colorado became Anytown, USA. It became a representation of the fact that these things happen over and over, all over the country. Littleton, CO, only 13 miles away from Aurora, was Anytown, USA when two students armed themselves and shot up Columbine 13 years ago. Now, in their back yard, another community aches, mourning the loss of friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, father, sons, and daughter. And for what? What could possibly have been the reason behind Holmes’ actions?
While poring over my Twitter feed and news articles, a few people I follow posted that Jessica Redfield, a sports blogger and aspiring TV reporter, had been in the theater. She was one of those that did not survive. I have never read any of Jessica’s work, probably because she’s in Denver, and I only really closely pay attention to Philly sports blogs. Her twitter feed had been linked, and it’s haunting to read. The last handful or so of her tweets are about going to the movies. Her last tweet reads “MOVIE DOESN’T START FOR 20 MINUTES” – after that, nothing. This is a young woman who was excited about going to see a movie, and instead, had her life cut short, only a month after narrowly avoiding being caught in the middle of a shooting at a shopping mall. She wrote about it here.
In her post about this mall shooting, Jessica writes about a feeling, an instinct, maybe, that had her feeling unsettled. That feeling is the reason she left the mall when she did, and is the reason she wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. Did she or anyone else in the theater last night have a feeling like that? Did they push it down, thinking there was nothing to be afraid of? That there was nothing they had to worry about? What about the people who maybe left their seats to run to the bathroom or get popcorn, exiting the theater mere moments before the gunfire started? What are they thinking about today?
Someone I follow on Twitter RT’d this. Someone in Aurora’s ticket had them assigned to theater 9, where the shooting took place. Instead, they went to theater 8. I don’t know if that is luck or divine intervention, but I tend to think that person’s life will be forever changed because of something so simple as walking into a different theater than the one listed on their ticket. It’s something akin to Seth McFarlane missing his flight on 9/11 and Mark Wahlberg making different travels plans for that day. McFarlane was booked on Flight 11, and missed it because he was hungover. Wahlberg was scheduled to be on Flight 93, and rearranged his schedule to go see a friend. Those two flights are the ones that hit the Twin Towers. I’m sure there are many others who missed those flights, or chose different ones, having no idea what would become of those planes once they took off. I have no doubt there are others who weren’t in theater 9 last night because of similar coincidence.
My heart goes out to the victims, to the friends and families of the victims, and honestly, anyone that was in the building last night. My heart goes out to the entire town of Aurora, the new Anytown, USA. As I stated earlier, any single one of us could have been in that theater. Any one of us could have gotten the phone call that would have stopped our lives on a dime, forever altering the course of our day-to-day.
In reading the ongoing coverage on cnn.com, I am appalled at the things people are leaving in the comment section. They have turned this horrendous act of violence into a debate on gun control, and whether or not armed citizens would have prevented this from happening, and whether it would have made the situation better or worse. I understand that there is a time and place to debate the merits and faults of our 2nd amendment right to bear arms, however, I don’t feel this is one of those times or places. Not when this wound is so fresh, while people are grieving and emotions are running high. No one knows just yet if the guns used in last night’s shooting were legally registered to the assailant or not. No one knows if James Holmes would’ve simply used explosives instead of firearms if he couldn’t get his hands on a gun. What we do know, however, is that he hurt people. Killed people. What he did doesn’t just affect the people who were in that theater last night. It touches the lives of their family and friends. It touches the lives of all of us, because, and I can’t say it enough, it could have been ANY ONE OF US.
Again, my thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives are touched by what happened last night. I’m not one who puts too much stock in prayer, as I’m hugely agnostic, but I think it’s appropriate in this case. I think Aurora is going to need all the help it can get so it can begin to make sense of the senseless, mourn the lost members of the community, support the survivors on their road to recovery, and so Aurora can, over time, heal the gaping wound James Holmes inflicted upon it last night.