As throngs of fans excitedly packed theatres across the country for the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Returns, the night was marred by tragedy in Aurora, Colorado at 12:20 am that left 12 dead and 59 wounded (including a three month old) at the hands of 24-year-old James Holmes, who burst in through the side exit, gassed then opened fire on the patrons of Theatre 9 while dressed as The Joker.
As what is now confirmed as “largest mass shooting in U.S. history” was occuring, people were live-tweeting and leaving Facebook status updates to document what they saw and to assure friends and family around the world they had survived.
Here is one said account.
“I am home and safe. I am still in shock, and feel sick to my stomach. I saw things tonight that nobody should ever see, and don’t know how I can forget. Here is everything that I know.
I was in Theater 8, and it was about 15 minutes into the movie. I was in the bottom section. There was a scene with gunfire, and during that scene, I heard multiple explosions up and to the right of me. I looked up and saw smoke, as well as people jumping out of their seats. I thought it was a firecracker prank. More people started jumping out of their seats, and there were more explosions. People started rushing toward the exits, and the theater erupted into chaos. I, along with most of the people in my section, remained seated. Likely, they thought, as I thought, that it was just stupid prank. People were crying, and bleeding. I presumed that the bleeding was from being trampled.
I remained in my seat thinking that it would be wise for me not to contribute to the confusion. People started running everywhere, and gradually, the theater thinned out. There were about 20 of us left, and I didn’t want to be part of whatever was going on outside.
A man came in yelling that we had to leave, and I asked him if he was a police officer, or security. He said no, but that he had been told to evacuate the theater. I thought that was suspicious, so I just stayed put. Within seconds of that exchange, I turned around and was met with a lot of SWAT police with guns and flashlights trained on me. I didn’t know what was going on, and still thought that they were reacting to a prank. I exited with my hands up, and asked them to identify who they were, which for some reason made sense at the time. They were patient, and told me that they were the police, and that I had to evacuate the building at once.
There were police and SWAT everywhere. Outside, it looked like one of those movie scenes where somebody exits a building and are met with hundreds of police, and flashing lights everywhere.
We started gathering up, and I thought it best to just sit down. Again, I still thought this was a prank, but was becoming skeptical. I was on the phone with my wife when I noticed a man stumble out of the building, covered in blood. He seemed fine until he collapsed. For anybody who has seen, or will see the cell phone footage from tonight, this was the guy in the blue and white vertical striped shirt who is covered in blood. He had to be carried by a bunch of civilians to the ambulance. Seconds later came something that is now rooted indelibly in my memory, and caused me to mentally shut down for a second. A police officer was walking out of the theater, and carrying a small girl with blond hair; wearing pink shorts and a pink top. She was covered in blood, staring at nothing, and gasping like a fish out of water. As he passed me, the crowd started keening, and wailing. It was the most mournful thing I have ever seen. People were shouting “no” in disbelief, and collapsing in grief. I had to hang up with my wife because as the officer walked by, all I could think of was my daughter. She looked like an older version of my daughter. It gave me a sick feeling that I have never had, and have not since been able to get rid of.
At this point, I had still managed to convince myself that the victims might be victims of a human stampede. It wasn’t until some time later that I saw cell phone photographs of injuries that I knew I had been wrong.
I was interviewed by Officer Kennedy from the Aurora Police Department, and given permission to leave. I noticed that people from the theater next door, theater 9, were not allowed to leave. As the news has reported, that is the theater where the gunman attacked.
I have never seen so many people in distress. Also, I have to say that the response time from the police was amazing. I thank them with all of my being for responding quickly, and keeping me safe.
I stuck around for a while, not wanting to cause any trouble by leaving, despite being given permission. When I finally did leave, I made to the front of the car queue just as the police officers who were clearing the cars were told not to let anybody else drive away. I had to park my car, and start walking. I was picked up by my father-in-law, who was more than kind in helping me get home, and came home.
Once here, I hugged my wife for what seemed like an eternity. I was so overcome with a feeling of safety, and as most people will report after a situation of extreme danger, a feeling of overwhelming love for my life, my family, and the love I am given every day from the most perfect family. Cliche, yes, but that is because it really happens. This is how people really feel after something like this.
For anybody who has not heard the news report, here is what the police are reporting:
A single gunman, dressed in bullet proof body armor, a gas mask, and all in black, entered the Aurora 16, theater 9, 12:05 showing of The Dark Knight Rises. He set off a canister of some kind of gas, presumably tear gas, and opened fire on the theater goers. In addition to firing shots from what has been described as a rifle, there were explosions from some kind of bomb. One man was shot in the neck, another in the head. Other people claimed that they were hit with shrapnel from the explosives. So far, 14 people have died, and more than 50 have been injured. The suspect exited the building, and was apprehended by police while he was standing outside of his car. He is now in custody.
Withing minutes, every available police officer, fire and rescue, and ambulance was on the scene. They have at this point, 4:40am, cleared the area of witnesses and bystanders, and are sweeping the area in order to determine whether or not there are more incendiary devices. Everyone who was in Theater 9 were taken to a local middle school for triage and witness statements. The youngest person to have been injured is a 6 year girl, likely the girl that we saw carried from the theater. The police have gone to the suspect’s apartment, and are trying to clear the area as the suspect claimed that he had more explosives there.
That is all that I know, and you can get up to date information from the various news sources online.
Now, my rant. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH SOME OF US THAT WE ARE THRILLED AND COMPELLED TO EXPEDITE OUR MORTALITY? Are we too complacent that we are so ready to speed up our impending death? Why did this asshole do this? I am alive tonight despite my poor reaction to a situation that I thought was benign. However, 14 innocent movie goers are dead. There is a 6 year old girl who may die tonight. WHAT THE FUCK?
Right now, I am sick with shock, and disbelief. I don’t want to live here anymore. In fact, I don’t want to live anywhere that I cannot keep my family safe. Of course, that is totally unrealistic. However, I have taken my children to that theater. This is MY COMMUNITY! The helplessness of knowing that I will never be able to keep my family completely safe is paralyzing. All I want out of life is to be happy with my family, and some crazy motherfucker almost took that away from me. He took that away from at least 14 others tonight. I am not naive enough to believe that it has ever been any different that this. In fact, violent crime is at a lower rate than it has ever been; taking into account all of recorded history. Still, it is not enough.
This is the part where you, the reader, will either groan at my drama, fail to understand the gravity, or nod in understanding. DO NOT TAKE YOUR DAYS FOR GRANTED. Yes, we could die from so many things, and we should not live life in fear, but for FUCK’S SAKE, who fucking CARES if you win the argument with your wife? What does it matter if you are in the same house as your family, but disconnected? Hug your children. Hug your partners. DRENCH YOURSELF IN THE GOOD THINGS. For, there are people out there who want to take it from you. Realize also, not every act of terror involved the stereotype “terrorist.” Terror comes in all shapes, colors, backgrounds. Kiss your family today and realize that a simple and innocent thing like attending a movie could be your last action in life.
That is all the sentimentality that I will force on those of you who have read this far. If you haven’t been in something like this, you will probably only suffer me and my rant because you are being polite. I don’t fault you. Still, don’t piss away your days.”
*ticket stub photo courtesy of Cody Hickman
Aurora, Colorado, The Dark Knight Rises, movie theater, shooting