by Aaron Einhorn
I’ve started writing this article and deleted it to restart it a dozen times. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the senseless events that occurred in Aurora, Colorado shortly after midnight last night.
All around the country, fans of movies, comics, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan lined up for midnight showings of The Dark Knight Rises. Movie theatres held marathon viewings, with the other films in Nolan’s trilogy. Comic shops handed out Batman comics to promote the movie. Costumers and cosplayers arrived in costume, dressed as their favorite heroes and villains from Gotham City.
And ten of the people who had the bad luck to be in Theatre #9 of the Century 16 Movie Theater in Aurora? Never walked out of that theatre. Two more of the people in that theatre have already died of gunshot injuries, and dozens more were shot and injured, and there may yet be more casualties.
What we know for certain is that one suspect, a 24-year-old man who NBC News has identified as James Holmes (although there is not yet any confirmation of his identity), walked into the theatre shortly after the film began, probably through an Emergency Exit door. He was wearing black, and it has been confirmed that he was wearing a gas mask, but despite initial reports, it does not seem like he was actually dressed as Bane.
The suspect, who is now in custody, threw one or more explosive devices of some sort – which has been reported by witnesses to be some sort of tear gas or pepper spray. Denver’s KUSA tells us that initially no one reacted, believing the stunt to be a part of the premiere.
“He looked so calm when he did it,” one witness said. “It was, like, scary. He waited for both the bombs to explode before he did anything. Then, after both of them exploded, he began to shoot.” There was confusion even after the assault began, as many thought the sounds of gunfire were coming from the film.
Police began receiving reports of the gunshots before 12:30 a.m., the theatre was evacuated, and due to the quick actions of officers on the scene, it is likely that lives were saved. The victims range in age from 3-months in age to full grown adults, and at least one 6-year old child is among the victims (although at this time, we don’t know if the six-year-old, or the 3-month-old, are among the casualties.)
President Obama has released the following statement:
Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my Administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.
And Warner Brothers has released this statement as well:
Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.
Does this affect me personally? Thank goodness, the answer is no. I live in Central Ohio, and the friends I have in Colorado were nowhere near that theatre. But it could have. The people in that theatre in Colorado were no different than me and my friends, or you and your friends. They weren’t part of a political movement. They weren’t working for a company that someone was disgruntled with. They were fans of a movie, who were out there with their friends and their families. All they wanted was to watch Batman save the day against villains, and instead they were faced with villainy just as harsh as anything seen in the pages of comic books.
So far, no one is blaming comics or superhero movies for the incident, and most sane human beings realize that the actions of one deranged individual doesn’t reflect on everyone who enjoys consuming superheroic entertainment. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of hours before some reactionary “news personality” starts blaming the movie, or the characters, or comics in general.
Similarly, at the moment, no one is blaming the idea of having costumed appearances at theatres. But I suspect that’s coming soon too. Would people have reacted faster in that theatre if they hadn’t thought it was part of the publicity? Maybe. And that could have saved a few lives.
As someone who makes costumed appearances, I’d hate to see those eliminated. But at the same time, I won’t be surprised if there’s some sort of push back. Right now? I don’t have answers. All I have is more questions, and trying to make sense of what happened.