Colorado shooting: Too close to home


It’s been covered on every major news station in the country, each day a different angle coming out. The shooter dyed his hair orange and announced himself as the Joker before firing on a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Patrons of the theater even thought that the smoke bombs and tear gas were part of the film itself. There isn’t a single person who has heard this story and hasn’t been moved by it.

When I first heard this on the radio that Friday, my reaction was different from the sympathy and the horror experienced by others. My oldest sister lives in Colorado, and she goes to that movie theater all the time. Every week, she’s told me, for their $4 matinee specials. I know she and her fiancé are big fans of the Dark Knight enterprise – and I didn’t know for sure if she had gone to the midnight showing or not.

I was really scared when I heard about the shootings. Her fiancé, who was staying with us to help with wedding preparations, was equally worried. He hadn’t heard from her that morning. We didn’t know for sure if she had gone to the showing or not. Her fiancé was the bigger fan, and he thought she might have been waiting to see it with him – but we didn’t know for sure.

It wasn’t until around one o’clock that we heard from her. It turned out that she hadn’t gone to the showing, opting to wait until her fiancé returned to see it with him. Her phone had been dead, and that was why she hadn’t contacted us sooner. But those few hours when we didn’t know if she had gone to that theater, if she had been there or not, were probably some of the scariest of my life.

It’s impossible to realize exactly how horrific events like these can be until confronted with the real possibility that it happened to a loved one. When I’ve heard about shootings in the past, I’ve felt horrified, sorry for the people and really wishing there was something I could do to help. When I knew that my beautiful, wonderful, hilarious older sister, who was getting married two weeks from that event, might have been in that theater, it was a completely different experience.

I felt so scared that it drowned out everything else. I just wanted to hear from her saying she was ok, that she hadn’t been at that theater. I knew logically that she had probably waited, but I just needed to hear it. It’s difficult to even describe my emotions, confronting the possibility that my sister had been there. I felt more helpless than I had ever felt just hearing about things like this happening, because things like sharing a Facebook photo asking Christian Bale to come visit the victims wouldn’t help at all if my sister had been in that theater.

I think it’s hard to realize what the families of the victims have gone through. I felt a thousand times worse than I had just hearing about it, and my sister was safe; she hadn’t actually gone to the showing. It’s so easy to feel sympathy but so difficult to really relate to what these people are actually going through. It’s important to keep in mind that the people he killed were not just names in an article – they were real people, with real families, who sat around the same morning I did, dreading a call from the police, and hoping beyond hope that their loved one hadn’t gone after all. And these families didn’t get that call from their loved one saying that they had decided not to go, like my sister. They got the call from the police.

I learned a very important lesson from this event – even if they live half a country away, it’s family and friends who make our lives worth living. It wasn’t my sister who was killed, but it could have been, so very easily. You never know when something like this is going to happen, and who it’s going to happen to. I love my sister and I can’t even imagine my life without her; and none of these people could imagine life without the person they loved who was lost at that shooting.

Imagine a person who matters a lot to you, and try to picture your life if they were taken away from you so unexpectedly. It’s difficult for us to realize what we have until it’s gone or until we are faced with that possibility. Every single person on this planet matters, and has people who love them and would be devastated if they were suddenly gone. When you read about things like this, try to put yourself in the shoes of the family – and say a prayer or hopeful thoughts for them, because something like this is one of the worst things in the world that could happen.