PERRY: Even after a week of horror, some of us in Aurora are afraid to blink


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.



  1. I appreciate your thoughts, Dave. I don’t know if there is a “moving on”. There certainly shouldn’t be just seven days later. My brothers were at Columbine High School on the day of the shooting in 1999, and it seems like, if anything, it’s a very, very slow fade. I hope that at some point this experience will not be the defining moment of the lives of those who lost loved ones, and those who survived. But that “moving on” may be ten years or twenty years from now. If it comes at all.

    • You relate another sad story about violence in a local high school, tragic.

      Have you all forgotten the tens of thousands who gave their lives for our freedoms?  WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, the Middle East?  These thousands of young women and men were, and are, fighting against evil, the same evil that committed the theater murders.  Is it the same ’cause’, no.  But it is evil without a doubt.

  2. A) the sentiment of not being able to move on is ruined by the religious jabs.  Way to be a completely insensitive ass.  Don’t believe in God?  Fine.  But why throw your cynicism out here and hurt someone who does, especially when it doesn’t add to your message and b) how embarrassing for you to have been a newspaper editor for 20+ years and still not know how to properly use a comma or space after a period.

  3. It takes a lot of courage to talk about “The God thing” in our country these days.  I applaud Dave for writing about his own beliefs (or lack thereof).  I think we can and should honor those who were killed and those who were physically and/or emotionally injured in Aurora without having to refer to God or assume that everyone is a Christian.  We are all brothers and sisters regardless of our faith (or lack thereof).  I don’t agree with SM that Dave’s sharing his lack of belief in God can hurt anyone who does believe in God.  When holy rollers say that God had a hand in this tragedy, I have to think they are completely nuts.  If there is a God (and maybe there is and maybe there isn’t), I don’t think that he or she or it would condone or excuse or rationalize the murder and suffering of innocent living beings — I think that he or she or it would weep right along with us.    

  4. I agree with you, Dave, I can’t justify leaning on faith when it defies all reason. All the same, in complete contradiction, I pray for healing for everyone touched by this. I have no clarity about why this is, no certainty that praying makes any sense or does any good. But I’m far away from Aurora now, and what is there to do? I support rational gun control, but a fat lot of good that’s going to do in the foreseeable future. I feel heartbroken, and I pray. I’m wildly grateful to you and all the Sentinel staff, all the first responders, all those who are setting up and attending these shrines.


  6. God gave us ‘free will’, the power to think, the power to reason.

    If God took away that basic difference between man and animal, then we would be the same as animals, we are not.  God cannot intercede when man makes decisions to do vile, unthinkable acts.

    God had no hand in the killings, ‘free will’ and in this case, lack of reason lead us to this event, now ‘free will’ and our laws will deal with this person.

  7. I actually found it really offensive when people were claiming that dead who weren’t devout Christian would, frankly, go to hell. I don’t think that is a statement that should ever be said around times like this.

  8. Just would like to give kudos to this local chick- fil- a. They were open early friday 7/20-2012 morning only to feed the local police,fireman,ambulance drivers, and reporters during the tragedy. The store lost money because many customers were not able to reach the store because of road blocks. They knew this was affecting their business yet they went out of their way to be there for the rescue personell, families, and victims during this tragedy. I’m sure those people got a discount too. The staff and managent from this store need to be given recognition for going above and beyond in caring for its community.

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