The first word of what would shape our Friday came via the in-house ABC radio network squawk-box just after three a.m. I'd just poured my first cup of coffee and was coaxing my computer to live when the system--a live, off-air link between the New York newsroom and radio stations around the country--came to life.
A special live report, the anchor said over the tiny speaker, coming down the line on an apparent shooting at a screening of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado. That early take spoke nothing of fatalities and contained no numbers. We'd flesh in those horrible facts as the morning went on while finding out about still another heretofore unknown madman who decided to make himself relevant via a body count.
The tragedy no doubt came up during your weekend activities although life did, indeed, go on. It always does, amid the renewed debates about mental health, gun control, and the randomness/frequency of such acts, especially in the U.S.
What makes this incident unique is that the tragedy is merged with a pop culture phenomenon, that being the release of "The Dark Knight Rises". Would the shootings change people's plans to see the film this opening weekend? Heartless though it may be to discuss, what would that mean to the box office (Hollywood is delaying the release of the numbers by a day, holding off until Monday in sensitivity to the situation). What about theater security, a subject close to my heart considering my son works at one? Time was when the biggest threat was a talker or a texter. Do we now need to have patrons patted down for weapons? What about metal detectors? Other sidebar debate delved the appropriateness of bringing infants and young kids to such screenings amid word that an infant and a six year old child were in the audience. That's a chat for another blog.
A theater. A post office. A church service in a suburban hotel. High schools. University campuses. All have been the scenes of random, mass violence over the years. As hard as it is to fathom how often they happen, it's amazing how soon we forget.
It's cold comfort to think that we live in a nation where personal freedoms allow millions of us to do as we please so long as we bring no harm to others, realizing that those same allowances give the dark, twisted and angry among us the ability to plot, scheme and act out--authorities able to move in only after the shots are fired and the grisly deed is done. The rest of us are left to debate, discuss and disagree as to what needs to change to keep it from happening again. The talk dies down, though, and our lives go on.
Until the next time that little newsroom speaker crackles back to life again.