Not even reality survived the last seven days here in Aurora.
Our world was turned upside down just one week ago, even though hundreds of thousands of lifetimes of grief, angst and horror were compressed into those mere seven days.
I’m not the same. So many I know here in Aurora feel the same way.
Mine is a glorious and hideous job. As newspaper types, we get a front-row seat at life. I get to see the best and worst of the world at a macro distance. In person, on the editor’s desk, and through the lenses of our photographers, I’ve been the chief voyer in Aurora for more than two decades. I’ve watched medical miracles happen at the Anschutz medical campus. I’ve watched when heroes leave from Buckley and too often not come home. I’ve watched candidates for city council, president, surveyor, congress and more add dangerously to the greenhouse gas problem on the planet. I’ve watched the world flock to Aurora to see the Pope. I’ve seen how valiant and how reckless police and rescuers can be. I’ve seen Aurora’s kids learn to read, learn to swim, learn to win and learn to lose. I’ve seen a lifetime of Aurorans enter this world and exit. I’ve trudged through the deeds of endless, cruelly violent people. But this… This is the worst.
Seven days ago, city money woes, traffic and an impending election fought for my attention. Now, my time has been swallowed with concern about hundreds of people terrorized at the movie theater I can see from my office window. I’m worrying what their lives will be like. I wonder what my mine will be like.
I realized this morning that although I’ve practically catalogued the memorial just a few steps from the newsroom, I hadn’t seen it myself. Even at a time when I figured everyone is all about work and doctor appointments, it’s packed with visitors. Among the dirt and weeds and prairie dogs, a giant shrine has appeared. It smells of candle wax baked in Aurora’s relentless sun. Among the hundreds, maybe thousands of wilted bouquets and stuffed bears are the occasional stuffed Tigger, a Shrek and even what looked to be Pepe Le Pew.
Mostly, the shrine is endless messages on placards, scrolls and drywall. Messages to the dead and wounded. Messages to Aurora. Reminders to the world. The bulk are religious blurbs, and they made me wince. I lost interest in and a need for the God thing at a very early age. I read too much and questioned too intensely before my Catholic indoctrination was able to take hold. So I’m at the same time perplexed and envious at how anyone could draw comfort from being told that “God wanted these 12 angels early.” No matter what your spiritual stance, I don’t want to think that any divinity would want this.
It didn’t seem that any of the dozens of people with me at the shrine were taking any comfort from this or anything as well. They came for the same reason I did. They want to move on but can’t. We all have prescriptions to fill, news budgets to complete, roads to repair, classes to register for. But the horror brought on by a crazy man with a gun in a public place, and the horror of the loss and injury to so many people, especially so many kids, just won’t fade yet.
Even after seven days of watching and being afraid to blink, I can’t push ahead. I guess I’m not alone. Judging by the the crowd that’s growing at the shrine, I’m not the only one that is confused how seven days can change so much and so little at the same time. Even at this close range, even after a week, it just doesn’t seem real.