OUR FAMILY OF FIVE lives roughly 35 miles — or 45 minutes — from the Century Aurora 16 cineplex, and we were all tucked in our beds and fast asleep when the gunman fired on the audience attending Friday’s midnight premier of ”The Dark Knight Rises.”
News of the massacre, particularly news of the slain six-year-old girl — a girl who would likely be going to first grade next month like my boy, Carl — dropped a black veil over my head.
Under it, I stepped back from the headlines — 12 people dead and 58 injured — to mourn the story’s heartbreaking details.
One survivor recalled hearing “Murder in the theater” playing repeatedly over the public address system as she fled.
Like her, I never knew such a system existed in movie theaters or that such a grim emergency communication had been programmed.
After daybreak, one father frantically waived a Xerox copy of his son’s photo in front of photographers and videographers clustered in the parking lot outside the theater.
He pleaded with them to help him find the young man, a person once a baby born 27 years earlier to the day.
None of the media said a word as the father marched off clutching the paper and scanning the crowd.
But I know that those characteristically quiet men and women — at least the photographers that I have so appreciated during my 22 years in journalism — felt the force of this man’s presence.
Just the specter of death and the multiple losses it entails unhinges some of us in private.
One Times-Call photographer pulled his truck over a few miles from the home of a girl he and I met who died a cancer-related death days later to weep before editing images of her in the newsroom.
How heartening to remember that we are built with a deep capacity to grieve loss beyond our familiar circle — that we can care about the suffering of the stranger as we care for the suffering of the loved one.
Reading internet chatter after the incident showed me that others nevertheless respond differently.
One person called public memorials “creepy” because some attending have no personal connection to the victims.
He implied that such attendance would be voyeuristic — that a mourner in the community might attend for a crass look-see on the spectacle of grief.
On Saturday night, my husband and I went through our evening roundup with the kids — bath time, time to brush teeth, reading time and tuck-into-bed time.
Each one — Carl, 6; Andy, 4; and Ray, 2 — returned to his respective bed after a day of summer play.
Lying in my own bed, alongside their sleeping Daddy in the dark, I wondered about the dozen families facing empty beds.
To wonder about them and mourn with them — at a public memorial or under an imaginary black veil — seems so far from voyeuristic.
Instead of just watching the story unfold, we in the community step into a place of waiting with them for understanding, for justice, for mercy, too, and, finally, for healing.