Home Featured James Holmes and the Aurora, Colorado Massacre

James Holmes and the Aurora, Colorado Massacre

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As many of you know, this past Friday, July 20, 2012 at around 12:30 a.m., an armed man entered a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire on innocent moviegoers. When the shooting stopped, over 50 people were wounded and 12 people died on the scene or as a direct result of their wounds at the hospitals they were taken to. Later, 24-year-old James E. Holmes would be identified as the shooter and taken into police custody. As a resident of Denver, Colorado, living less than 20 minutes from where the shooting took place in a theatre I’ve been to before, Slim Jackson, SBM Executive Editor, asked that I summarize my experience and thoughts on the shooting.


I’d been telling people since last year that I was going to see The Dark Knight Rises opening weekend, and I had Friday, July 20, 2012 off. However, I chose to sleep in that morning and catch the movie in the afternoon. I was abruptly woken up at 7:53 a.m. by the repeated calls of my father. I ignored them at first, figuring I could call him later in the day, but the incessant and constant vibration of my phone finally forced me out of bed.

“Hello?” It was more of a groggy-voiced accusation than a greeting.

“Ok. You’re sleep. I didn’t want to cause a panic but I thought I’d call to make sure. Yeah… I thought you were ok.” My father, who I’ve rarely, if ever, heard rattled, said in a relieved tone. “Ok… I’ll let you get back to sleep… I’ll let your mother know you’re ok.”

I was still reluctantly awakening from slumber and I was confused. “What are you talking about?”

“There was a shooting in Aurora. I’d gotten a couple calls from friends and family. They couldn’t get hold of you. Everyone just wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“Ok,” I said still confused. Shootings happen every day I thought to myself. What was so special about this one? “Yeah, I’m fine.”

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“I’ll let everyone know. You should check out the news. Love you.”

“Love you too…”

I hung up the phone no less confused than when the conversation began. I was about to turn over and go back to bed when something caught my eye. I’m not an unpopular person, but I hadn’t seen this many missed calls and text messages in years. My inbox was littered with brief excerpts from friends and family, but what caught me off-guard was the number of contacts I hadn’t heard from in months, or in some cases years. The first message was from my mom at 5:15am, “Please let me know everything is ok” I began to respond to a few of the messages before I realized they all had a similar theme, “Are you ok?” This barrage of messages was similar to the ones I received when the wildfires from last month hit national airways. I decided I’d better check out the news…

Aurora Theater Massacre, 50 Wounded, 12 Dead

Suspected Shooter: James E. Holmes

That was the headline that greeted me on the homepage of the city’s largest paper, The DenverPost. I had completely underestimated the gravity of the situation. I moved over to the national networks for more information. They were all running the same story. Another massacre, like the High School shooting of Columbine, had happened in Colorado again. I was gripped by the same panic that I’m sure took hold of my friends and family as they sought out to contact me and instead of getting relief, they got unnerving silence as, unknown to them, I slept peacefully in my bed. I began to respond to the text messages and phone calls with more sympathy this time around, but I first had to confirm the people I knew in Colorado were ok. Fortunately, no one in my immediate contacts had attended the showing. Others were not so fortunate.

Wide-awake now, I began watching with the remainder of the country as the story unfolded on the national news networks. I briefly hopped on Twitter to see if and how others were affected, but I had to take a leave of absence soon thereafter when I noticed an ever-growing group of people were already turning the shooting into comedic fodder for the entertainment of their followers. Twelve people had died and many more were still laying in critical condition in hospitals around the city. The Internet on the other hand was already busy making jokes or so-called relative comparisons, “People die every day!” I saw commented more than once. True, but death tolls and mourning, as best I can tell, aren’t a competition. But, rather than pass judgment, I let the people who reached out to me know that I was ok – and I logged off.

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As the weekend went on, the portrait of the suspected shooter, 24-year-old James E. Holmes, began to emerge. As I was watching CNN Live at one point, I remember hearing the emotional voice of a man who had lost a co-worker to the shooting make a remark along the lines of, “Victims aren’t remembered in this country, killers are.” Sadly, he had a point. Already the major networks were slowly shifting their focus from those lost to the man who was charged with causing their death, Mr. James Holmes.

Over the course of the weekend, as more and more people became aware of the shooting I received more and more text messages, phone calls, and Twitter messages. I caught up with people I hadn’t heard from in months and likely won’t hear from again for many more months, until, perhaps, the next near-tragedy occurs. While I’m truly grateful (and underestimated) people were concerned with my well-being, I couldn’t help but wonder why it takes tragedies to unite us? Why do I only hear from people making sure my life wasn’t lost instead of checking up on me on all the days when my life was never in danger? Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this ‘moral crime,’ too.

I was also asked by a number of people to provide my thoughts on the alleged shooter, James Holmes, gun laws, and an array of other topics related or unrelated to the shooting. However, I believe there is a time and a place for those discussions and we are not there, yet. In my opinion, those are discussions we should/could have at all times, not just when it’s convenient, at the expense of the victims, or because we’re reminded at the hands of a still unfolding tragedy. In the aftermath of it all, I’m sure there will be plenty of time for accusations, fingerpointing, grandstanding and partisanship. Instead, I want to end this post in remembrance of those lost, instead of focusing on the issues that are still present. Let us not quickly forget those who are no longer with us simply because they are not here to speak for themselves. The following are the names of the victims that have been released:

  1. Jonathan Blunk
  2. AJ Boik
  3. Jesse Childress
  4. Gordon Cowden
  5. Jessica Ghawi
  6. John Thomas Larimer
  7. Matt McQuinn
  8. Micayla Medek
  9. Veronica Moser-Sullivan
  10. Alex Sullivan
  11. Alex Teves
  12. Rebecca Wingo
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Click here to read CNN’s profile on Remembering the VictimsI’d also like to give my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those lost or still in recovery. I’d ask, in general, that we all take some time out today, tomorrow, and every day to appreciate those around us in the calmness of the present instead of only seeking them out in the chaos of tragedy. Let’s make an effort to give equal appreciation to life instead of waiting until death to mourn its loss. Lastly, on a personal note, I want to thank all those who reached out to check on me regardless of medium. Thank you.

Comment(13)

  1. Wow Wim. I'm glad your ok as well. This reminds me of a saying, "give me my flowers while I'm alive right now, not when I'm dead at my funeral."
    Having lost many family members, (thru death from illness and natural causes) I completely understand loss of loved ones. My heart and prayers go out to all those in Colorado who lost their loved ones. Because of one persons disregard for life, obvious mental unstability, people have lost sons, daughters, moms, dads, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, fiance's, aunts, uncles, a grandparent and dear friends. I heard a 6 yr old was one of the casualties and that was truly heartbreaking. One person died on his b-day I heard. Someone who was celebrating their life and living to see another b-day. At the very least, according to the news this man said it was the best b-day ever. So his last b-day was one he enjoyed.
    With all the death in my family that I've experienced, including losing both parents, I know all too well the importance of making sure all your loved ones know that you love them and not holding grudges. I know that life is a precious gift that many take for granted, but tomorrow is not promised to any of us, this is another sad and unfortunate reminder of that.
    My prayers go out to the people slain and all of their loved ones. May God rest their souls and bless and comfort their families.

  2. I disagree that it's Too Soon to start up yet Another conversation over Gun Laws and stronger reform. The past 5 years have had major tragedies and missed opportunities to get back to the days when Bill Clinton had regulation to restrict assault weapons purchases, buying the amount of ammunition to supply a military platoon, and buying military/SWAT equipment (body armor, smoke/gas/flash bang grenades, masks, etc) Easily, whether it is by online or at a gun store. Virginia Tech- Missed Opportunity (32 Killed); Tuscon, Arizona shooting (18 shot, 6 killed, including an 8-year old and a Congresswoman and Federal judge)- Wasted Talk about reinstating the Brady Laws ; Norway killing (69 dead, majority were Children)- another Wasted Chance for Gun Reform in the U.S., and Last Friday was ANOTHER call for this conversation to be held…..

    Let's also keep in mind Most if not All movie theaters Prohibit Guns and other weapons from being brought in, so all the people who say and said if SOMEBODY had a gun in the theater Could Have stopped the gunman-or anybody else for that matter- is Incorrect and Impossible. Yes, people can smuggle food and drinks inside instead of paying for expensive food, but Sneaking Food and Sneaking a Gun are two Huge and Different Things. Murders of massacres DO get Large Coverage and Victims do not, yet at the same time the Survivors rarely get coverage and the Same concern as the Dead do (minus those who Volunteer to give their accounts or selected people Asked to Speak….)

    Besides local news, city officials, and the families of the victims, NOBODY get upset and outraged over killings in the inner-cities, especially in cities like Chicago- it's considered the Status Quo and a "black thing", and the NRA & Republican Party make No Noise over that, but let a rural or suburban town have a tragedy or another massive National tragedy then the Gun Reform supporters, the NRA and people who take the 2nd Amendment right to the extreme come out. It's NOT Too Soon for talks, but Sadly almost Always Too Late and the fight to keep guns away from the Insane, the Criminal-minded and those who wish to use an object, which was created for the purpose ONLY to Kill, is Too Soft….

  3. Morning, a horrible situation. One victim Jessica Ghawi survived a shooting that took place here in Tororto at the Eaton Center in June only to be shot and killed watching a movie a month later.

  4. I completely forgot you lived in Denver.

    That was a horrific tragedy, and I'm glad Obama said on the day of not to politicize the event, but to remember the victims. Both sides couldn't wait to jump in to talk about pushing or eliminating gun control laws. Can we at least mourn the dead for a minute first?

  5. That definitely was a tragedy and I wouldn't wish that upon any group of people anywhere. I would only hope that more killers started off with themselves when they had a thirst for bloodshed and do us all a favor.

    One point I want to bring up however is the punishment for such a crime. I vehemently oppose the DEATH PENALTY, I think it's an easy out. Having your freedom stripped away from you seems like a harsher punishment; where your nightmare begins repeatedly each rising day.

    I've never seen the purpose for being killed after a heinous crime, tortured yes, but given the freedom of death I really don't understand. I would love to hear any counterarguments, if there are any.

    My recent post TheSUNK T-Shirt and Boyshort Giveaway

  6. It is with the same panic that my mother and I made those calls to my brother and sister-in-law who live in the immediate vicinity of the theater, in Aurora. My mother was paralyzed with fear as no one seemed to be answering their phones or text messages at 4 and 5am. I pleaded with her to remain calm, said multiple prayers and believed with all my heart that my family was safe and sound, resting in bed. Thankfully they were, as my brother finally answered his phone and calmed my mother down. He hadn't even heard all the commotion yet that was practically outside his window. As fear gripped our hearts and our family was found to be safe, I couldn't imagine what those whose relatives were not so lucky were going through. I was shaken to my core.
    Making things even harder to cope was that I work in a movie theater part-time and the thought of having to go into work that night rattled me. I can picture how he did it, the entire scene taking place and envision the massacre happening again. Tears came to my eyes as I made my way to the building. And then I saw people leaving the building through the emergency exit doors (which are never used) and I jumped right out of my skin. I realized then that while this situation might never repeat itself, what this man took away from us, what he destroyed was more than just a hundred or so lives, he took our peace, our calm, our feeling of security.
    We already have security in our building, but additional officers were on sight from the village to make the guests and staff feel better. As a member of the management team, I asked a guard to actually accompany me all night in my duties as I was that scared. He knew and happily complied. We have access to counselors and I intend to take the company up on their offer, and encourage my staff to do the same. This is not my first time experiencing a tragedy but my feelings are no less significant.
    I worked at a law firm a few years ago in downtown Chicago during the same time, a gunman stormed another firm and shot up the place. I was equally traumatized then.

    I have and will continue to pray for all those touched by this tragedy, not just physically but emotionally as well. Violence is common place, especially here in Chicago and around the world, but it doesn't make it any less tragic or painful. Especially when it occurs in such a seemingly safe environment. I think our relaxed stance and hunched shoulders reaction is the issue. We seem to be losing our humanity more and more everyday as such tragedies begin to affect us less and less.
    This moment in time is not going to be so easily forgetten.

    1. I went to see TDKR on Friday with tickets I had purchased weeks ago, and I had the same experience in the theatre. There was one scene in particular where gunshots were ringing out and I was transfixed in thinking about how the victims had felt at that moment when shooting started. There was also an older gentlemen who got up and opened the EXIT door on two separate occasions just to close it and hang out behind the screen for a minute or two. If I had been near the aisle, we probably would have left right then.

      After the Dunbar attacks, I thought I had become numb to such senseless violence on the news. This shooting has proven me wrong. Even reading this post and thinking of the panic WIM's parents must have been feeling have me tearing up. People shouldn't fear for their lives as they go about their daily routines and trying to enjoy life.

  7. As I said earlier, I completely forgot that you were in that area until I saw your reassurances to those who checked up on you. I'm glad you and your friends are all right. May those who lost their lives rest in peace, and their loved ones be comforted. Good job with this post.

  8. Hello There. I found your weblog using msn. That is a really neatly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

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