The last week has been a tough one.
It’s been quieter than usual around our office in Colorado. Quiet’s not a word you want to use to describe a place that’s usually filled with deadline pressure and boisterous personalities.
We’re just miles from the location of the Aurora theater shooting and minutes from the courthouse where a person I don’t even want to mention is being housed. News trucks are everywhere.
The Denver area—as most people know—is no stranger to tragedy. I grew up in Littleton, Colo., the site of the Columbine shootings. Claiming Littleton as my hometown has earned me quizzical—then undeservedly sympathetic—looks for years.
My grandmother lives in Aurora; she (and we) often visit the town center where the theater is located. I used to work at Aurora’s newspaper.
Though I’m safe and lucky and blessed—though those words barely do justice when comparing myself to those who have suffered such heartbreak—I still think about the ties and the closeness in proximity and the what-ifs. I think we all do.
Collectively, as a state, it hurts. Our thoughts have ranged from terror and horror to sadness and anger. I’ve experienced each myself. When I saw a senator cry during a TV interview last week, I broke down. I’m not even sure why that was what set me off. Emotion has been palpable.
Now, a week later, I feel a little different. My rage has somewhat subsided. And despite my general cynicism—this time fueled by a media circus and too much attention being placed on the one person it shouldn’t—I have begun to feel hopeful.
This is in part due to the stories coming out about those inside the theater that night. A fellow alum from my alma mater, the University of Denver, Alex Teves, died shielding his girlfriend from gunfire.
It’s even in part due to Neil Diamond, whose concert I attended last night outside Denver. He spoke about the tragedy, offered his prayers and pointed to people all over the arena collecting money for the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. The line for merchandise was among the longest I’ve seen at a concert—all the profits from T-shirt sales that night went to the victims, too.
It’s also about hearing about people like NFLer Steve Smith—who has no ties to the shooting nor to Colorado—shelling out $100,000 to the victims.
And it’s also due to news that three of the five hospitals treating the 58 surviving victims said they would waive some or all of the medical fees involved in the patients’ care.
As a health care reporter, I admit that undeserving medical bill hell was an immediate thought for me. If the situation itself wasn’t enough, something that was completely out of these people’s hands could ultimately damage their finances. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But with our country’s system, it’s reality.
Thanks to the compassion of the country over this horrifying incident—from big-name performers and athletes to some guy throwing in 10 bucks in a basket at a concert—it’s likely these victims will get all the help they need. Fear and anxiety over paying their medical bills will not impede their efforts to heal—at least physically.
Of course, this isn’t the case for most. Ordinary people fall victim to crimes and accidents that leave them in dire medical—and thus financial—need. They don’t get media attention, they don’t get an outpouring of sympathy and they rarely get their bills waived or paid for them.
The movie massacre won’t be forgotten any time soon—and it shouldn’t. Despite the pit I’ve been feeling in my stomach, I’m moved by the response to the tragedy. Though it's clear compassion is so good and so healing, I realize there’s always room for more.