I doubt this will be the first reaction post to the Aurora shootings you will read, nor will it be the last. I’m not even sure it will be a particularly original take, but it’s mine, and here we are.
I found out about the shootings about 5 minutes after the movie ended, the credits hadn’t even finished, but there’s always a chance for extra scenes, and my friend needed a minute to digest the movie anyway. So I was still sitting in my theatre, about 5 seats from the door, checking for Twitter reactions when the reactions shift to horror; someone shot up a theatre full of people who were essentially doing exactly the same thing as me, at almost the same time, whose last sights were of something I had just finished watching with bated breath.
There’s something powerful about that, midnight screenings tend to build a sense of community, even if it only lasts as long as the movie, so despite the fact that it happened hundreds of miles away to people I would likely have never met, it still felt somewhat personal. Maybe it was the footage on the news, dozens of people standing around in a dark parking lot, staring at their phones, or off to middle distance, a news camera zooming in to catch every painful eye flicker, to immortalize very personal moments. I recognized that helpless look in their faces, maybe they weren’t sure what was going on, or how they got there, but some of them knew that a friend wasn’t answering their phone, and they knew that something was terribly wrong.
The terror in their eyes won’t soon leave them, because how is your mind supposed to handle something like that? One minute you’re watching a movie, eating some popcorn, and the next some coward is trying to kill you, to terrorize you and everyone who sees what he did.
That’s what the shooter is, a coward. Was he crazy? Maybe. Was he smart? Yes. He came prepared, with the proper gear, with a plan, with the patience to wait for a loud action scene so as to start his murderous spree with the most confusion. This wasn’t a tragedy, or part of some bigger picture, that implies a greatness. Tragedy should be reserved for earthquakes and tornados, unavoidable events of inevitable misfortune. The shooter does not deserve greatness or the morbid glamour of tragedy. It was a murder, and a cowardly one at that. There’s nothing glamorous or special about smoking up a dark room and shooting people who tried to get away.
He wants to be remembered, to feel big and strong and powerful, because he has the power to take life and make people scared. He knows that one of the biggest pop culture events of the year now has an asterix with his name next to it. He wanted to feel power, and be remembered, and as a coward he didn’t care why or how, just that he was never forgotten. Heroes on the other hand, can see the difference between the power and fame that comes from fear, and that which comes from admiration and respect. Anyone can find power in someone else’s fear, it’s not that hard. Fewer can earn it through respect, and that is why we should not remember the coward who hid behind some smoke and his guns, but the lives that should have had so much more to give. The youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan was six, her mom, having just been accepted to medical school is still in the hospital. Alex Teves, Jon Blunk and Matt McQuinn died acting as a human shields, protecting their respective girlfriends with their own bodies. Alex Sullivan died on his 27th birthday, his parents didn’t find out until 8pm the next night.
For me, that’s always the saddest part of young lives being taken, I grieve in part for all of the people who will never get to meet a wonderful person. Jessica Ghawi, a hockey reporter seemed like one of those people, I’m sure others were too, but she’s the one that people are connecting to, so she’s the example I’ll use. There was genuine sadness at the incredible career she could have had, and countless friends and coworkers immediately came forward to share her spirit far and wide. I experienced the same feeling when my best friend, an aspiring teacher was murdered. I was so genuinely angry at her killer, not only for taking her from me, but because of all the kids who wouldn’t get to have her as a teacher, she had the right humorous edge, with the kind of common sense and kindness that would have easily made her a favorite teacher, one which hundreds of kids are now deprived of. That made me angry for a long time. I tried to say the same thing as Jessica’s brother Jordan, focus on remembering the victims, not the murderer, because the victims deserve our attention, while he does not.
Of course, this advice is easier to say than follow, and I can’t say that I managed to follow much of my own advice, I still let news of my friends killer ruin my day, I still keep a Google alert on his name, and I sometimes I still let his cowardly legacy overshadow hers.
But let’s not do that this time. Forget his name, as he grows old in a jail cell, let him search for articles on himself and come up short, let him, and anyone who’s ever thought of doing the same know that they will not be glorified, they won’t be remembered or feared. If anything, pity him, pity this sad, anonymous coward who was too weak or pathetic to be remembered for something positive, and instead chose to use his talents to spread fear. Hopefully, one day, when the scars begin to heal, his name won’t be remembered at all.