Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aurora: Two ways of coming to grips

THE CASE of James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora theater shootings, is slowly moving through the judicial system of the state of Colorado. The survivors of the deadly July 20 shooting at a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” are grappling with life in its wake; the friends and relatives of the 12 people who died are grappling with life without the lives they cherished.

But if anyone thought the Aurora incident would go the way of so many such events — fading into the background of the daily life, just another atrocity that’d never stay in the national viewfinder … well, they’re wrong. In two very different ways, three different people — two who attended the theater that morning, one who had a hand in the film’s creation — are pushing back against the insistence of the failure of memory.

Hans Zimmer, the Oscar-winning composer and the composer of the music for “The Dark Knight Rises,” has released “Aurora,” a composition written in honors of the victims of the shooting. All proceeds from the sale of the composition (available for $1.29 at iTunes) will be donated to the Aurora Victims Relief Fund, managed at the Community First Foundation.

“I recorded this song in London in the days following the tragedy as a heartfelt tribute to the victims and their families,” Zimmer said in a statement.

Those who bought and played the track have been moved. “The music is heartwrenchingly beautiful to listen to,” said Victoria Castillo, on an iTunes forum.

“Hans Zimmer’s music poetry has no limits,” said Carlos G. Perez-Garcia.

From TheMostCake: “What a lovely and gracious way to honor the victims. And humanity.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Don and Jacqueline Keavney Lader, both former U.S. Marines who deployed to Iraq, went to the Century 16 theater that night not expecting mayhem beyond that on the screen. What they got was more than they bargained for. Jacqueline Lader recounted that night in a Friday piece in The Daily Beast. Excerpts follow:

“When the movie finally started, the place was completely silent. We were expecting some excellent action scenes, and the movie starts out with a completely over-the-top aerial stunt. About 20 minutes into the movie, my husband and I both noticed a bright sliver of light in the corner of the theater. We watched as a man, dressed in head-to-toe body armor, smoothly walked in through the emergency exit, popped a smoke grenade, and tossed it directly over our heads into the crowd. ...”

“I know that Don and I knew something was very wrong the instant that emergency exit opened. For maybe one second I thought we were victims of a simple prank, and I thought “This is not funny.” But my bad gut feeling was confirmed the instant I smelled tear gas, and we hit the floor as the burning sensation of the gas filled our eyes, noses and lungs. As we were on our way down to the ground, the shooter opened fire. ...”

“We heard a break in the shooting (where Don thought the shooter was reloading; we found out later that his semi-automatic rifle had jammed) and Don dragged me off the floor. He screamed out “RUN!” as a command to a friend who had come with us that night, and we sprinted for the exits. We got knocked down and trampled a bit on our way out, but we regained our footing and ran as hard and as fast as we could.

“We didn’t stop running until we got to our car, and we peeled out of the parking lot.”

◊ ◊ ◊

WHAT FOLLOWED for the Laders was a need to take stock of what had just happened. The day after the shootings, and partly at the suggestion of a therapist, the Laders decided to take a step to regain not just their mental equilibrium, but also their confidence and their love of the movies.

Like someone thrown from a horse, like a survivor of a plane crash, the Laders went back to the scene of the crime against their self-confidence.

“Don and I had decided that it was vitally important to go back as soon as possible to the movie theater and finish watching “The Dark Knight Rises.” The shooter’s intent was to cause fear, injury, and death. We escaped injury and death. Whether it was due to luck, fate, our military training, or all three, we’ll never know. But we both refuse to let fear consume us. We refuse to allow this one madman to injure our minds and spirits the way he tried to injure our bodies. If we let fear overtake us and prevent us from living bold, authentic lives, the shooter — and other murderers like him — wins.”

In both cases — whether it was two moviegoers who refused to cower in fear or the movie’s composer who took a moral stand on behalf of the victims with the weapon of music — there's welcome evidence of indomitable emotional courage. It’s what persists from this tragedy, it’s what will endure a long time after the media and the politicians shift their fickle, twitchy attention somewhere else.

Image credits: Century 16 theater: Associated Press. Aurora graphic: From iTunes. Zimmer: Richard Yaussi, republished under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Lader: AP Photo/Alex Brandon.

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