In the Suburbs / Haunted by a real-life horror show
Published 6:17 am, Thursday, July 26, 2012
When I snapped on my car radio last Friday morning I heard the horror story of the Colorado movie theater massacre. At a midnight showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman methodically began shooting people in the audience, killing 12 and injuring at least 50.
My wife already was calling to say she was never going to the movies again.
"Shall we stop going anywhere?" I asked her. "Do we ever know when we go out for dinner, a movie, a theater performance or for a simple ride in the car that we'll be coming home? No! But we go anyway, because we can't stop living our lives."
"I know this shooting has unnerved you," I added, "but let's focus on the innocent victims and the wounded, not our own projections."
I hung up, and as I drove toward my friendly diner, I could only think about 12 people, most of whom were young enough to be my grandchildren and great grandchildren, who wouldn't be having a routine breakfast like me anymore, wouldn't know the sweetness of love that lasts a lifetime, wouldn't climb to the top of their company ladders and so much more.
"My gosh," I thought. "If that madman or whatever one would call him opened fire at the Fairfield Cinemas, my wife and I could have been the victims."
By then I was almost too choked up to drive. I had the same feeling of emptiness as I did on the mornings after Columbine, Oklahoma City, 9/1l, Virginia Tech and so many other tragedies that have touched us in the last 15 years. Why?
The number of victims in that Aurora, Colo., theater wasn't my focus as much as that they didn't deserve to die such a random death in a hail of bullets at a movie theater. This guy was so deliberate and methodical that nothing else mattered. And a booby-trapped apartment, for goodness sake. The man meant business. And it could be years before any justice is done.
What was different about this tragedy vs. earlier attacks was the rash of texts that people in the theater sent before the film began, during the shooting and in the aftermath.
I was particularly moved by a text from a young journalist who had escaped death in a shooting in Toronto only weeks before but lost her life in the theater. Her touching messages were about her mother's upcoming visit and how the young woman was looking forward to it.
And Facebook became a public memorial for so many to post loved ones' pictures and add touching remembrances on walls. There was no Facebook in the aftermath of 9/11
On Tuesday, the media focused on boyfriends who became heroes in death by shielding their girlfriends from the bullets. The heart-wrenching descriptions of their bravery and the voids their loved ones felt unnerved me all over again.
But perhaps the most touching tribute came from actor Christian Bale, who played Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Bale flew to Colorado on Tuesday to visit victims and relatives. This gesture was one of the most humane I've seen.
I certainly applaud President Obama for participating, but Christian Bale's generosity will be remembered long after the funerals and memorials. More folks can identify with a leading man, humbled by what should have been a gala opening and became a bloodbath instead.
The media has turned now to the killer with his scraggly orange hair, vacant eyes and flat personality. Until last Friday morning, James Holmes was simply another Aurora resident in the process of dropping out of a University of Colorado graduate program.
Now we all want to know how this guy stayed under the radar, quietly buying $15,000 in weapons and ammunition over the past four months. How could anyone have missed that? It's pretty easily if no one was aware of the deadly preparations and the meticulous creation of his plan.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to hold the two presidential candidates accountable for lax gun control. But the fact that some of Holmes' purchases were made through the Internet makes one wonder how lawmakers can keep any of this under control.
Last Thursday evening, people took their seats in a theater to enjoy a much-anticipated movie. Instead they were the targets of a diabolical killer.
Twelve people will never go home again. Many of the wounded will leave the hospital with permanent injuries. And who among the survivors won't have lasting emotional scars?
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.