I had a rough night Thursday.
Sarah and I planned to sneak away from our personal responsibilities and have dinner out before catching a very late movie. I suggested a restaurant in Morgantown that we had been contemplating for quite some time. We tried it; it wasn’t what we expected, but it was pleasant and tasty. However, upon standing to leave the dinning room, the cramps set in.
It was evident to me by the time I reached the parking lot that our very late movie was not going to happen, at least not on this particular night. So my wife, sharing my growing concern, quickly conceded to the change of plans, and we headed back home to decompress, in a matter of speaking.
We both went to bed early, after watching LOST of course, and suffered our way through a night’s sleep. But, for as bad as my tummy tossed and turned, it was nowhere near as miserable as the feeling of darkness and déjà-vu that set in as I began my day on Friday.
At 12:38am MDT, a 24-year-old man wearing a gas mask and clad head-to-toe in body armor opened fire on a movie theater full of spectators preparing to see Christopher Nolan’s newly released, and much anticipated, The Dark Knight Rises.
When the mist of the tear gas-filled smoke bombs and the thunder of the gunfire had subsided, at least a dozen people were dead and almost 60 were injured.
I have a solid memory. I am gifted with remembering things in great detail for an extended period of time. Sometimes, however, when it gets to be “too long ago,” the details become a little extemporaneous, but I recall almost minute-for-minute the morning of September 11, 2001.
The who, what, when, or where are not important or appropriate for this situation, but rather it’s the feeling that triggered my déjà-vu. The darkness that set upon my head and my heart as I watched smoke billow from the World Trade Center was exactly the same as I listened to the news coverage of the tragedy in Colorado.
When did it become dangerous to go to the movies? Are armed guards stationed beside the popcorn machines going to become the norm now, instead of the exception? Are ushers going to begin ripping tickets as we pass through metal detectors?
God, I hope not!!
For me, a trip to the movies has become as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Dinner and a movie is as synonymous to dating and relationships as fireworks are to the 4thof July or turkey is to Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, these “ways of life” are the things that terrorists constantly seek to attack.
Make no mistake about it: The man who attacked the movie theater on Friday was a terrorist. It doesn’t matter his motives nor if he has an affiliation with any group. The bottom line is he terrorized human beings and struck fear into the hearts of millions. Just like Columbine made parents second guess putting their kids on the morning bus and changed the way school systems protected their buildings and students and 9/11 made all Americans apprehensive about flying while airlines revamped and drastically increased security, people will now be uneasy about buying a ticket to sit with strangers in what will feel like a confined dark room, and theater owners will begin to evaluate the way they manage their audiences.
But we can stop that from happening. We can lift the darkness. I will tell you how.
Go to the movies.
I don’t care if you wrangle the family into the mini-van, call up your significant other, agree to a blind date, or just take some personal time alone; go out and do something. Whether it be a movie, a play, a concert, a sporting event, or open mic night at your favorite brew pub, buy the tickets and send the message that our way of life is exactly that, ours, and we will not be afraid to live it.
In times of tragedy and great loss, people’s lives change forever. I believe the best things that those of us not directly associated with the victims can do are pray, if we are so inclined to that discipline, remember the remarkable heroism of the men who died throwing themselves on top of someone they loved, and the injuries suffered by those who ran into the theater instead of away to help people they didn’t even know, and finally, to strive for a sense of normalcy.
So, over the next few days, hug your loved ones a little tighter, slow down and enjoy the little things, take stock of what really matters, and take in a moving picture show.
I’ll see you there.