This is not what I want to write. I was all set with something I had written last night. But due to some computer probs and a bad case of the “too damned tired to finish its” last night, I had decided to get up and just add a few more archaic pop culture references and grab a few pics off of Google Images and it would be all set. I can’t do that now. I have to say something different. You don’t have to agree with me. Hell, you can stop reading now if you want to. I just have to say what’s on my mind, and today there is not much on my mind that’s happy or amusing.
I woke up this morning, got ticked off because we are out of coffee and thought that this would be the worse thing about today. I was wrong. I turned on the local morning news and was stabbed in the chest by what I saw. The first image on the screen was an aerial view of some unnamed movie theater in some random mall at night. Through the darkness of the picture, you could make out the tell-tale flashing lights of police cars in the parking lot. That’s when the scroll on the bottom of the screen gave illumination to what was actually being seen. A gunman had charged into Century Theater 9 at the Town Center in Aurora, Colorado, during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight rises, tossed two tear gas canisters at the crowd and then opened fire. The death toll was reported at 14, although that number may change as facts become clearer, with 50 injured. The shooter walked the aisles targeting people at point-blank range. He wore body armor so that nothing could stop him from finishing his grisly task.I had never heard of Aurora, Colorado before, but now it is forever etched in my mind with that list of places who belong to that rapidly growing fraternity of locations whose price for joining is the loss of its residents at the hands of a madman. They join that McDonald’s in San Diego of 1984,the Luby’s in Killeen Texas of 1986, a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas of 1998, the Virginia Tech campus of 2007, and in a town just 20 miles away, Columbine High School in 1999.
I am sure as the story unfolds that we will learn that this young man, that the police arrested last night as he calmly walked away from the mass chaos his cowardly act had created, was “troubled” and that some how the “system failed him” but that doesn’t in any way answer the bigger question,”What do we do now?” I have always tried to keep my kids safe and out of harms’ way but it seems the places that they can now go without danger seem to be shrinking day by day. No high-rise building feels truly secure, an airport still causes me concerns and our most secure government buildings are always a target to the terrorists in the world.
As I watch this news story unfold I can’t help but be taken back to the horrible events that seem to befall us all too often that they become such seminal moments that they change our world. As we toured the 9/11 artifacts at the Newseum in Washington, I reflected on how that day had changed our lives as Americans. This is true and the mass casualties of that day seem so overwhelming that there is no way that it could be otherwise. However, in light of this shooting last night, I start to ponder how it was true that 9/11 changed my life as an American but it was the Columbine shooting that changed my life as a parent. As I take myself back to that April day in 1999, in a world before al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, I start to remember what an impact it had on me. I only hope that this is the last of these events that we have to learn from.
In 1999, we only had one child and she was just three years old. She did not understand how those flickering images that her parents were glued to as she played with her Duplo blocks were changing her life. As the story unfolded on live television, we would look to the teenage victims being carried across the field to the awaiting ambulances we wondered aloud how we would cope if something like that happened at our school. We didn’t have an answer then and I don’t have one now. I do know that the lessons from that day led us to teach our kids to be kind to their classmates, to reach out to the disaffected and the alone, to try to be a positive influence in the lives of everyone they meet. They understand that there are some tortured souls among us how barely hold on that thread of humanity that keeps them from harming themselves and others. I don’t know if they have prevented anyone from acting on some psychotic notion that they had just by trying to be considerate to them. I do know that they keep trying and maybe they have saved a few lost souls along the way. I know they won’t ever stop trying.
The sadness of the fact that the movie shooter targeted kids as young as 3 months old is a bit overwhelming. How does someone sink to that level of evil? I do know that the immediate response of one unnamed TV network was to spin it as an excuse to tear down the walls between church and state. I don’t think mandatory prayer in school would have stopped this. I do , however, believe that mandatory kindness and civility would. We have to find a way to reach out to these disaffected forgotten souls living on the edge of our own lives. We all know some who have lost too much, who have felt as though the world has given up on them and it is hard not to walk away. But, we just cannot. I am not saying that a kind act will prevent someone from stepping off the edge, but I know that saying nothing definitely will not. So I guess we each individually have to find a way to bring some sanity to a glowingly insane world. I will do my part to be kind. I will find a way to make a difference. I will reach out to those who are lost in my life and maybe, just maybe, they will save me along the way.