In the days leading up to the anniversary of the Aurora shootings, I intended to re-post this on “the day”, but, I guess fortunately for me, I was distracted by happier things and spending time with my family so I did not get it done. This does not make the anniversary of that horrific day any less important to me. What this distraction indicates though, is the progress I have made in the last year. Previously, an anniversary like this would have made me an emotional mess, even though I was not directly involved with this particular tragedy. But not this year. I am proud of the progress but know there is still a long road.
I do still feel it is important to remember all of those effected. That is why I have decided to re-post this piece. It was actually my very first blog post – a year ago tomorrow. I had been in therapy working to deal with my own PTSD for a little more than 6 months. At that point, I really did not feel like I had made much progress. I was an emotional mess in the days after the shootings. Writing this post truly helped me identify and get a handle on some of the intense emotions.
This is the original post – I have not changed it or edited it at all.
They Will Never Be the Same……..
It may seem odd that this is my first post. Honestly, I have been planning to start this blog for months, but just have not done it. I will discuss my reasons/hesitations in another “First” post. But right now I thought this was important to share. I wrote it the day after the movie theater shootings in Aurora, CO.
They will never be the same……
I have spent most of the day looking for words to put to my feelings about the tragedy in Aurora last night. It has been difficult, but here is what came to me. The first part may seem obvious and cliché, but hang in there with me and let me work through it……
Last night 12 people suddenly lost their lives. The families of these 12 people will never be the same.
All 71 of these people had only one thing in common – they went to a movie. Sharing this night that should have been fun and entertaining with these 71 were dozens of others with the same thing in common – they went to a movie. These witnesses experienced what no one should ever experience. Many of them will never be the same.
As we move through the coming days and weeks, as more details about the events unfold, as criminal proceedings progress, we need to honor and remember the 12 people who lost their lives. We need to honor and support the wounded and injured. We need to honor and help the witnesses.
This is what we should do. This is what we will do. But, if this is all we do, we are falling dreadfully short. If this is all we do, we are forgetting about another, more discreet group of people who were also directly, equally, and irreparably affected. Another group of victims who will never allow you to call them victims…..
As the scene unfolded in the movie theater, those who were there – the injured, the uninjured, everyone in that theater – were thinking of one basic thing: Am I going to die tonight? Sure, there were variations – Will I ever see my family again; how can I possibly get out of here; this can’t be happening….Sure, there were many people trying to help others in the midst of blinding fear. But basically there was one thought. Am I going to die tonight?
We cannot forget the others directly affected by this tragedy. They will also never be the same.
Try for a moment to put your self in the place of the first police officers to arrive on scene. Try to imagine what they were thinking. Yes, they probably thought: Am I going to die tonight? But, that was not the only thought. They were also thinking: Where is the gunman? Is there only one? How can I get to him? Should I try to get to him? Can I shoot accurately enough to hit only him and not the dozens of civilians in the area? What is the best way to get all of these people out of harm’s way? Should I try to help the victims? Should I move the injured out of the theater or hope they are out of the way? How can I best protect all the civilians in the area?
The police officers on the scene will never be the same.
Now, try for a moment to put your self in the place of the first fire and EMS people to arrive on scene. Try to imagine what they were thinking. Sure, they probably thought: Am I going to die tonight? But, again, that was not the only thought. As did the police officers, they had many thoughts and many decisions to make: How many people are hurt? Who is hurt the worst and needs my immediate attention? Who is hurt, but not hurt badly and can wait for my attention? How can I get the most seriously injured out of the theater and to the hospital as quickly as possible? How much time should I spend with one critically injured person before moving to the next? How can I help everyone who needs help? Who is hurt so badly that I cannot take the time to even try to help?
The fire and EMS personnel on the scene will never be the same.
Next, try to put yourself in the place of the ER doctors and nurses. Try to imagine what they were thinking. True, they were not wondering if they were going to die tonight. But they also had many difficult decisions: How many victims will I be seeing tonight? Should I devote my energies to this first patient, or wait to see if there is someone who is injured more seriously? What about the other patients in my ER? What about the person critically injured in an unrelated car accident – should I send him to surgery now, or wait to see if someone else comes in who needs that operating room more desperately?
The hospital staff will never be the same.
This may sound cold, and I do not mean to diminish anyone’s loss, but the families of those killed, in some ways, have it easier. They have closure. They can lay their loved ones to rest. No, it won’t be easy. But they can move on.
Those who were injured or just witnessed the horror may be able to move on at some point. Their physical wounds will heal. The emotional wounds will take time, but eventually, with the support of friends and family, will also heal. They were able to answer the ultimate question: Am I doing to die? They did not die. They did what they needed to do and survived. These people will be able to move on – in many cases, with help.
For the other group of victims, it is not so easy. Why? Because tonight they are back on the job. They are back making similar decisions. Wondering if they might die tonight. Wondering how best to help the next victim. There is no time to heal. No time to grieve.
The police officers, fire and EMS personnel, and hospital staff will never be the same.
This one event will affect many of them for years to come. It will affect their families. It may affect their careers. There will be no closure. There will be only critique: Did I do the best job I could? Did I make the right decisions? If I had made better decisions, could I have saved even just one more life?
These people will never be the same.
As you reflect on this horrific event in the coming days, honor and remember those killed. Honor and support those injured. Honor and help the witnesses. But please do not forget to honor the first responders who put everything on the line to help in the most unimaginable circumstance.
None of these people will ever be the same.