I went to bed last night wishing that I could be one of the many locals at the movie theater watching The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve been a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, but there I was at home knowing that I would eventually get my chance to watch the movie that I have been anxiously anticipating for more than a year.
I awoke this morning and went through my typical workday morning routine. Cereal in the bowl. Seat at the head of the kitchen table. Cell phone with Twitter loaded in my hand. That’s when I first saw the news about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.
I’ve read about similar stories and none of them have really affected me. It’s not that I don’t care, because I do, but none of the stories ever seemed to hit home. Columbine occurred after I was out of high school. The Virginia Tech tragedy occurred after I was out of college. None of it seemed to be relevant to me, so while I was sad, it didn’t cause me any concern for my own life.
It’s not just that none of it seemed relevant to me either, and I’m not entirely sure why. And it isn’t that I have been entirely isolated from those types of actions.
While playing basketball during lunch hour in junior high, a fellow student pulled out a gun and held it to another student’s head. All of us paused to watch what was happening for a few seconds and then we went back to our game of basketball, as if it were just another day with a kid holding a gun on another kid. In fact, the school itself didn’t really take the act of pulling a gun on another student all that seriously either. If I remember correctly, the student was eventually suspended for a few days, but that was it. No cops. No lectures on bringing guns to school. Nothing. The school didn’t even address the situation with the students.
What happened in Aurora, however, has had a different effect on me than any of those previous tragedies.
As I read accounts of the tragedy from friends who I follow on Twitter, I realized that many of the people who that I know were familiar with some of the victims who were in that theater in Aurora. This hit home with me and I have to say a bit of paranoia has started to seep in.
Addie and I stopped at McDonald’s tonight on our way home from her gymnastics summer camp. While we were in McDonald’s, I noticed a guy who was in his mid-twenties with lots of tattoos sitting a few booths away from us. I don’t typically judge people based on their looks, and I didn’t judge this guy either for the first twenty minutes or so of our meal.
As Addie and I ate our ice cream, the guy with the tattoos stood up and walked to a back corner of the McDonald’s, where only I could see him, and he quietly whispered to a lady in her mid-fifties. As he walked by, I noticed that he had a hand gun in the front pocket of his shorts. When he got to the back corner of McDonald’s, he put his hand on the handle of his gun. He didn’t pull the gun out of his pocket, but his hand was on the handle. He and the lady whispered quietly back and forth for a few minutes and they eventually exchanged something as quickly and discreetly as possible.
That’s when the paranoia of the events in Aurora flared up in my mind. Here was this younger guy, dressed, groomed, and tatted like he was desperately trying to make up for 10 years of being bullied, with his hand on a hand gun, quietly whispering to a random lady in the McDonald’s.
I’m sure what was happening in the corner of that McDonald’s was far more likely to be a drug deal than an angry young person looking to take out his anger on random strangers. I know that it was unfair of me to judge this guy simply because of how he looked. The fact that he had a gun shouldn’t be justification for the judgment either. I’ve seen lots of people carry concealed weapons and it has never caused me to think I was in danger before.
But none of that stopped me from telling Addie to get her stuff gathered together because we were leaving the McDonald’s right then. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t finished our ice cream. It didn’t matter that I have a strict rule that ice cream is not allowed in the car. None of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was that Addie and I were not going to be sitting in that McDonald’s waiting to find out if that guy intended on using his gun.
It’s unfortunate that tragedies occur and that they have this type of an effect on people. Hopefully in time my paranoia will disappear, because I certainly don’t want to give the people who commit terrible acts any power over my life or my family’s life—because then they win.
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