For the first few hours after finding out about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, any social media about the weather, a good iced coffee or Frank Ocean made me kind of furious. All I wanted to read in 140 character increments was more about the murders. I wanted to know the last tweets of the Channel 7 sports reporter who died, about the tear gas that the audience mistook as another special effect, and about the kinds of costumes people had worn to the screening. As if these facts could give some definition to something so senseless. Of course, they did not make me feel any better than a photo of an iced coffee.
In terms of national tragedies that I’ve been in a 20-mile radius of, this one was different than September 11. On 9/11, all the senseless murder was connected to something larger. That’s not to say an international terrorist plot makes the untimely death of a brother or mom any easier. But for those who were only attached to the tragedy as a witness, there was a narrative that unfolded afterward, and there’s something comforting in a story.
There has been an effort to blame the senselessness of the Aurora shootings on the NRA’s interpretation of the second amendment. But I don’t think that’s fair. Just as the pro-choice movement isn’t in favor of abortions, the NRA doesn’t like mass murder. (Though to the guy wearing a second amendment t-shirt in Lyons on Saturday: maybe too soon?) James Holmes was going to do something awful no matter how long he had to wait for whatever kind of weapon he was going to buy. There’s nothing tangible to blame this tragedy on.
I went to bed on Thursday night maybe a little drunk, but safe and cool in my air-conditioned apartment, ready to wake up to a Friday morning and the coming weekend. Instead, I woke up to a panicked email from a friend who knew I would never go to a midnight showing of Batman. I don’t think she thought I was in real danger, but my proximity to the random unfairness of life left her unnerved.
Last week was not slow in the senseless tragedy genre. In Burgas, Bulgaria, a suicide bomber blew up a bus of Israeli tourists. While I was as unlikely to be on that bus as I was to be at the Batman premier, I have been in Burgas. In fact, last summer, an Israeli real estate investor gave my friend and me a ride along 99, even going so far as to pay a cab driver to lead us to the train station in the city. For those who aren’t up on Bulgarian history, the country takes much pride in being one of the few places that didn’t turn their Jews over during WWII and Israeli tourism is a strong part of their economy. My friend who lives in Sofia said there were more than a few Facebook statuses equating the suicide bomber to September 11.
It’s easy to go months and even years and pretend. But with the Aurora shootings and the suicide bombing in Burgas, there it is, and in a place I’ve been: life is uncertain and unfair. What’s kept me happy and healthy for the past 29 years has been nothing but luck. And it could go the other way at any moment.