I can’t stop thinking about the Colorado movie theater shooting. Over the last few days, it has driven me to tears on several occasions. Tears for the victims. Tears for their families. Tears of gratitude for the life and loves I have. Tears of fear, driven by the reminder that everything you love can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
I can’t bring myself to pass by an article on the attack without reading it or change the news if it comes on my screen. I feel like I owe it to the victims to know all of their names, all of their backstories. To disregard or ignore it because it upsets me feels utterly selfish and disrespectful.
They can’t ignore what happened.
It’s easy to move your way from one day into the next, without ever pausing to consider the decisions you made that led you there. I’m certainly not saying we should live our lives in fear; hermits who never leave our homes. But the minute details of their day led them to that particular showing of the Dark Knight, in that particular theater, at that particular time. Showing up a few minutes earlier or later than other patrons led them to choose the particular seat they chose, which was essentially the arbitrary deciding factor on whether or not they lived or died.
I am especially struck by the story of Jessica Ghawi , who worked under the last name Redfield, an aspiring sports journalist who died that night. Not to belittle anyone else’s tragedy. I’m sure that it is because Jessica and I could be interchangeable. We are close in age, with the same college degrees and, according to her Twitter account, the same stubbornness and sarcasm. She called herself a “grammar snob” which can certainly be used to describe me. Jessica spent the afternoon tweeting a friend, bugging him to accompany her to the movie showing that night. The friend had several reasons why he didn’t want to go, including that they both had to work the next day and would be tired in the morning. But Jessica pressed and joked, eventually convincing him to go with her. She tweeted, “Of course we’re seeing Dark Knight. Redheaded Texan spitfire, people should never argue with me. Maybe I should get in on those NHL talks…” Her last tweet was: MOVIE DOESN’T START FOR 20 MINUTES.
That very simple tweet is devastating to me. Here was a beautiful, feisty, seemingly happy 20-something, painfully unaware of the fate that would end her life in under an hour. How many times have you been sitting in a theater, before the previews started, updating your Facebook status, replying to emails, etc? Just sitting and waiting and watching…
In June, she narrowly escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall. In her last blog post, she wrote about the experience, noting
“I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm’s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”
“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.
I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can’t help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.”
Every second of every day is a gift. I will try to live it as such. Really try.
So should you.