The Eeriness of Humanity

I know I’m not the first to jump on the Aurora shooting bandwagon, but I also assume I’m not the last who continues to think about it.  The night after the shooting, my husband and I sat safely on our couch in the peace of our own home.  He hung his head and said, “I can’t imagine what those people must be going through right now,” and “It scares me to think of what I would or wouldn’t have done in that situation.”  The eeriness of our humanity haunted us.  Life is but a quick breath.  Especially when one of our own species snatches our last.  Even strangers in Missouri felt the weight of Aurora’s blood.  I continue to wonder how the survivors are doing?  How are the family and friends who lost a loved one at the movie theater?  In this dark, chaotic act of evil, is God present in the aftermath–in the community and hospitality that forms from tragedy?  Was He present in the act itself?  I’ve read about Petra Anderson, the girl who felt a bullet blast through her nose and shove its way to the back of her head.  And I read about the vessel in her brain that she unknowingly had since birth–the same one which guided that speeding metal pellet to the brim of her skull.  Petra is alive because of this unique “birth defect” and the seemingly impossible chances that a bullet would sprint down its path.  God, it seems, not only protected Petra, but prepared her for this event.  If that is true, this horrible massacre was planned long before Holmes gathered assassination toys from his doorstep.  And, if that is true, it makes me cringe to think what else is to come our way.  What other sinister deeds lurk in the shadows of the future?  Will other innocent activities become blood baths?

I picture myself, excited about opening night of one of my favorite characters.  Granted, of course, in my mind I’m going to the opening night of the Hunger Games.  But it could have happened there, too.  This time, though, a small group of my closest friends and family pre-order tickets to the The Dark Knight.  Anticipation rushes shakily through our veins.  Every sundown brings us closer to the moment when Batman will really begin.  Days are electrified with the inability to sit still.  We have a countdown marking the minute the movie will roll opening credits and on that night we stride through the door with golden tickets in our hands.  The lobby smells of popcorn and butter and we follow our noses to the concession line.  Hundreds of shirts marked with the same symbol swarm the theater.  I’ve had my eye on those Buncha Crunch all night.  It’s my mom’s movie tradition: eat chocolate with popcorn.  I top a not-so-small Diet Pepsi with a lid and straw and follow the frenzy to another large herd of heroic-looking people.  The ticket attendant motions us toward him.  At the moment, he’s the most popular guy in the theater and he tears my ticket before placing the shredded paper in my snack-filled hand.  I’m going to keep this forever, I think.  Children file in before us–one, a young boy wearing his Batman pajamas, chatters excitedly with his dad; the other, a baby girl, is asleep on her mother’s shoulder.  I try to grab a seat around the middle of the row in the center of the theater.  I like to feel the pulse of the movie, and what better way than to perch on its heart?  My talking-picture posse plops down around me.  Our legs dance on the bouncy seat cushions as we turn to each other for snippets of conversation.  Perhaps we even comment on the strangeness of that man leaving through the emergency exit door.  Then we decide he probably felt weird being here all by himself and decided to avoid the crowds as he skulked away in embarrassment.  “Is it time yet?” one friend might ask as the minutes crawl toward previews.  And then, the big moment is here: a super villain strides into the room to kick off the show.  Somebody hoots and hollers.  I may even be tempted to hoot and holler at this innovative promotion scheme.  He throws something toward us.  I watch the rows in front of me choke on the gas in cacophonous coughs.  Something is really wrong, my gut says, churning Morse code.  Maybe they’re actors, my head argues.  I flinch at the first explosion, grabbing the back of the seat in front of me for protection.  More explosions, followed by blunted grunts as bullets pierce flesh.  Then screams of terror.  And howls of pain.  People toward the back are already fighting to squeeze through the door.  Some shout words.  Others just shout.  Between bullets I hear Batman beginning.  The warmth of someone else spatters my face.  It tastes metallic.  The villain begins to make his way up the aisle, swapping one gun for another and crushing pieces of popped corn beneath his blood-stained boot.

What would you do?

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4 Comments on “The Eeriness of Humanity

  1. My hope is that I would be brave. My hope is that I would have the reaction to protect those that I cared for most. My hope is that I never have to witness how I would react in a situation like that.

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  2. You certainly have a way with words my dear. For the first time since it happened I actually felt like I was there and truly wondered what it would be like to be in that situation. I hope I would act as Jordan would mention, but we never truly know how we will respond, do we?

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  3. I agree with you both–I hope I would act bravely and help others survive somehow (who knows how?), but I also hope I never experience something like it to know for sure.

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  4. It’s a shame to have to think about, isn’t it. I can’t say how I would react, not at all. Who would know, who could actually imagine that situation before it existed and calculate their actions?
    I think the easy thing to do is wish to be brave, because I also think that sounds better to society. No one wants to hear if would wish to be killed quickly. Or if I wished the shooter would go after other people so I could escape. Horrible thoughts? Probably. But we are engineered to want to live, and to want to be without pain. Who knows what your body would do in that moment.
    I agree that this moment was a tragedy, and it causes people to question humanity, as you say, but I refuse to be stunned into losing grip on the fact that there are so many good things in the world. Yes, there will be several more acts of seemingly senseless violence and cruelness in the world, but there will also be countless acts of love and self-sacrifice and kindness every day that is never reported. As Anne Frank wrote, “In spite of everything, I stil believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up on my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.”

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