These have been difficult days for many Americans, heartsick and shell-shocked in the wake of the Colorado movie theater ramapage. In the pre-dawn darkness of Friday morning, in another time zone two hours ahead of Colorado and unable to sleep, I stumbled onto some of the first reports out of Aurora. I was transfixed. As minutes turned into hours, I couldn't comprehend the death toll on the bottom of the television screen: 14 at the time, later revised back to 12 where it still stands. A half-dozen people are still clinging to life in critical condition.
My inability to fathom such senselessness and callous disregard for human life was wrapped like a hot dog inside that theater, a presumably safe haven where generations of families flock to escape the weather, the challenges of everyday life, and immerse themselves in the art form of movie making and entertainment.
The innocence of an outing as American as apple pie was shattered with each and every bullet. Our children love going to the show. I thought of the countless times we have gone together, or I have dropped them off for a couple hours of fun and enjoyment.
And I thought about the parents who had done the same Thursday night in Aurora. The mother who is paralyzed in a hospital bed with a bullet lodged in her throat, unaware her six year old daughter is among the fatalities. And Alex Sullivan, eager to ring in his 27th birthday, unaware it would be his final minutes of life inside the death chamber of theater number nine, while his father awaited his return home in a few hours.
This tragic, dark chapter in America's history has resonated with our children in a way unlike others such as the Tucson shooting a year-and-a-half ago. It is as if they have experienced a death in the family, aware now more than ever of their own vulnerability. Like so many,they want to help in some way. Naturally, their 'Pennies From Heaven' service project will be deployed once again.
But helping them make sense of this also means trying to explain the unimagineable, why someone would methodically calculate to end or destroy so many lives? We'll probably never know the answer to that, but in the midst of such devastation, the discussion must include the stories of the many good-deeds that attempted to triumph over evil just after midnight in that Century movie theater: The boyfriend who took a bullet for his girlfriend and her brother, the moviegoer who instructed strangers to 'play dead' in order to walk out alive, the police officers who abandoned standard emergency proceedure by loading people into the back of squad cars to rush them to the hospital, and the person who tried in vain to carry a mortally wounded victim to safety.
There was a lot of good embedded in those horrific minutes early Friday morning. May we as a nation remember that even in the most abominable of times, that benevolence and mercy will always try to rise above the smoke and poisonous gases of the most heinous and wicked acts.