By now, you know the story probably better than me. Lone gunman enters a crowded movie theater and throws tear gas. Then he starts shooting. People scream, run, help each other, dive for cover, dial 9-1-1, and endure unspeakable terror.
Ten miles away, I was asleep in my bed.
The police came, and the ambulances and fire departments. A friend who had wanted to go see Batman, was instead on duty Friday night. He was one of the doctors who treated some of the 70 victims of the shooting. His wife has been posting on Facebook.
Here, in Littleton, I heard nothing.
In the morning, among the wounded were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 people dead. Twelve people who will not laugh any more or hug their friends and family. Twelve people who won’t eat popcorn ever again, or read a good story. Twelve people who were important to those who knew and loved them. They went out for lovely, dark knight entertainment, but ended their lives in dark, frightened chaos.
I posted my last entry Friday morning, before seeing the first news of this on my Yahoo page. In disbelief my first thought was, “Oh no, not again.” My mind raced back to Columbine, another horrific event just over a mile away from my own home. I remember the sirens, the terror, the weeks, months, years of healing.
I remembered the loss of my daughter a year later. She died suddenly, but not in the agony of fear. Her death was traumatic, but a part of life’s bigger cycle. I remembered how important, how helpful, how healing it was to have family and friends in those first days of shock. So I turned on my radio and became a part of the community of grief.
THEY HAVE NAMES
Although not all 70 victims can be named in this column, I am aware of them. These are people, not numbers. Each of those people have at least ten family members and friends who are hurting with them. This means that in Colorado’s hottest summer in recorded history, 700 people have just had to endure the heat of fear, uncertainty and grief. They are going through hell. And we as a community are there with them.
It is important to etch on our minds the names and faces of the people who died in an act of terrorism that had no political or religious meaning. Here are the people whose deaths have no meaning beyond that we must put a stop to this kind of terror:
- Jonathan Blunk – 26
- Alexander Boik – 17
- Jesse Childress – 29
- Gordon Cowdon – 51
- Jessica Ghawai – 24
- Veronica Moser-Sullivan – 6
- John Larimer – 27
- Matthew McQuinn – 27
- Micayla Medek – 23
- Alex M. Sullivan – 27
- Alexander Teves – 24
- Rebecca Wingo – 32
“I REFUSE TO SAY HIS NAME”
Then came the speeches and government officials. There are the talking heads on television who demand to know why in a situation that has no one root evil that can be pulled out like a weed and thrown away. There is the cacophony of political stands on guns and gun control, on public safety, on looking to blame someone.
It’s easy to pick out the perpetrator and blame him. Another young person without a rudder in the sea of people around him. We should have known. His neighbors thought he was a shy man. He must be a wacko of evil bearing. His professors just saw a brilliant student. There must have been clues this was going to happen. Well, when someone orders 6,000 rounds of ammo on the internet, perhaps there’s a clue there? When the gun range person has a bad feeling about the guy after returning a call and receiving an incoherent message on the boy’s answering machine, was he supposed to call someone? And if so, who?
The suspect has been called evil. The suspect, should remain nameless in order to stop others who do this kind of depthless malevolent act for notoriety’s sake. And so our governor has said with more force than any other statement among those who speak for a living, “I refuse to say his name.”
THE MARCH TOWARD HEALING
Grief has no time limits or expiration date. Some will recover and move on, quicker than one would think possible. For some, this “incident” will haunt their thoughts for years. For those closest to the families of the victims their lives are changed forever.
But as a society, we must move forward. We must ask why and change where we can. We must do things to stop this from happening again.
Personally, I believe in what the young couple who survived said. They had protected their children in the incident. And they remained upset and frightened afterwards. But they said it is important to love one another. To be nice to each other.
Funny, that is what’s carved on my daughter’s gravestone too: “Be nice, God loves you.”
So, if you see a “shy” or “lonely” looking person today, try to make a point of saying hello. Get to know him or her. It isn’t just a nice thing to do. You may be saving someone’s life.