Yesterday morning, shortly after midnight, tragedy struck Colorado once more. This time it was not fire that threatened the lives of Coloradans, but instead it was a madman with 4 guns and no remorse. 12 people have been killed and another 58 wounded (8 of which are still in critical condition) in one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
We woke up to the news of this event on Friday, seeing it all over Twitter and Facebook before we’d even left our bed. We came downstairs and turned on the news only to see it played over and over before our eyes. It was sad and shocking, but it was hard to look away. The incomprehensible decision of one man was affecting the lives of people all over the state, the country and the world. As they interviewed eye witnesses and showed parents looking for their children, hoping that they were just lost in the hysteria, not lost from this life, the emotions became stronger. Your heart breaks for those parents, friends and loved ones waiting for answers and fearing the worst.
I did not live in Colorado when Columbine happened. I was 1200+ miles away, in Vacaville, California on that fateful April day. But I remember, vividly, coming home from school and watching as students were being evacuated from their school, a place of assumed safety. We watched as the death tolls rose and the stories of both victims and assailants were revealed. We mourned from afar the lives of people we didn’t know, in a state we’d never been to, for reasons that we just couldn’t understand. We related to them- these were children our age, witnessing unspeakable tragedy and living unknown terror. I was 14 years old. I was in high school. And the fear that this could have happened anywhere, including Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California, was real.
This time, I am part of a Colorado community that has been shaken by the closeness of this tragedy. We took my parents to the airport last night and on the way home we could see the theatre from I-225. It took us a mere 20 minutes to get home from there. This terror, this pain, this tragedy occurred 20 minutes from the safety of our home. It happened not only to people our age, but to children, to parents, to servicemen and newlyweds. But innocents, every one of them. No one was safe.
Stories began to emerge of those who tried to help others in the midst of chaos and what had to be the most terrifying moments of their lives. The story of a 19 year old who, when he heard a young mother screaming for her children, went back to help her find them and get them to safety. Who took a shot to his leg to protect complete strangers. The story of a young woman who tried to help those who were hurt despite having the barrel of a gun pointed right in her own face moments earlier. The stories of friends and family covering their loved ones to protect them from harm. This reminds me of something I wrote when I visited the Columbine Memorial a couple years ago:
“Going to a place like that reminds you both of how sad and dangerous the state of the world is but also how beautiful it is that there are people who are willing to put themselves in danger to help and protect people. To see how a community, a state, a nation can come together in times of tragedy to love and support each other. Tragedy really shows the worst in people but also showcases the best. It reminds me of a quote from a speech on the West Wing that I saw just last night (Stephen and I have been watching it and just finished season 3. I love it. I never thought I would since I’m not very political, but I do.) The context is included in the quote:
“More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. Forty-four people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men’s team were killed and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.” “
And that is exactly what has already started happening. Yesterday, the same day as this horrible event, Bonfils Blood Center reported that all 6 blood banks and all of the mobile blood units were booked solid with appointments for people to donate to help those in need. Within 3 hours of GivingFirst.org being set up to help local non-profits provide services for victims $125,000 had been raised. Already the people of Colorado are rising to meet the challenge. Already people around the country are looking for ways to help. I saw that Bloodsource, the blood bank I donated to in Vacaville, California, has sent platelets to Colorado to help the victims. Donations are coming in from around the country to the Red Cross. Businesses in the Aurora community have begun pooling resources to help those in need. The President has pledged to help in whatever ways possible.
The City of Aurora, the State of Colorado and the United States will rise to master this challenge. We will, as a community, support those who have been affected. It will be a long healing process, but we will heal. We will continue to pray for Colorado and for God’s comfort and healing to be showered upon those who have lost loved ones.
We’ve lost acres of our land, hundreds of our houses, the lives of our citizens and a sense of security in the most carefree of places this summer. But we have not lost our will to go on, to rebuild and to heal.
To see a Coloradan’s perspective on Denver’s ability to rise above, please read Stephen’s blog:
Denver, Colorado: A Comeback Town