We’ll tell all we know of suspect, but I’ll try not to use his name much. History should remember those who died, not their killer. @AC360
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) July 21, 2012
By now, we’ve all had a moment to absorb what happened in the wee hours of yesterday in Aurora, Colorado. I know I have. I’ve read obsessively, I’ve shed tears, I’ve shared news, and I’ve stared at that creepy picture of the killer that his university released wondering when, how, and why he lost touch with reality and arrived at such a dark place where he could do something so heinous. And then this morning I read the following on Jordan Ghawi’s blog — he’s the brother of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi who was getting a lot of coverage yesterday because she left behind a digital footprint that showed what a vibrant woman she was, and what a loss her absence will be.
2208 (local): Recevivng (sic) word that another victim has been identified. Alex Sullivan died of wounds sustained in the shooting. It was his 27th birthday. It appears that he leaves behind his wife and extended family. I look forward to hearing about his life through his family and friends. Let us remember his name.
Day Two 7/21
…1025 (local): We will be declining all interviews today in hopes that the media will grant the other victims of this tragedy the same amount of airtime that they gave Jessica yesterday. Let us learn the stories, and celebrate the lives, of Alex Sullivan (27), Micayla Medek (23), Veronica Moser (6), Matt McQuinn (27), Jesse Childress (29), and John Larimer (27).
In the faces of tragedies like these, all too often the shooter eclipses the deceased, basking in the glow of a legacy he chose, condemning those who had no choice to a legacy of “victim” – a legacy which too often overpowers the shining moments of lives-cut-short. Not only do these victims lose their lives to mass murderers, they lose their life’s work, too.
Jessica’s online life allowed us to look past her final role as victim and in to what by all accounts looked to be a full, fruitful life with much left to accomplish. Let’s find a way to do that for Alex Sullivan, Rebecca Wingo, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser, Matt McQuinn, Jesse Childress, John Larimer, AJ Boik, and the victims whose names have yet to be released, too.
On a more personal note… It was thirteen years ago, just months after Columbine, when a man walked in to the day camp at my local Jewish Community Center and opened fire. My friend Mindy took two rounds in the leg as she led her five-year-old campers to arts and crafts that morning. Yesterday, after processing the events herself, she sent an email to the friends and family who so often think of her on days like these, when we try to wrap our minds around the actions of yet another very sick individual wreaking havoc on our communities. Here’s just a portion of what she had to say —
Someone once looked me in the eye and told me if had I been carrying a gun in my backpack the day I was shot at the Jewish Community Center, I would have been a real hero. To them I would like to say what about the risk that my 5 year old campers could have taken the gun out and shot their fellow campers the day before? Or take the tragedy of last night’s midnight screening, the shooter was in head to toe body armor….Could the police determine that there was only one real credible threat? How many more than the 12 would be dead? If the shooter was killed himself would we know that there were explosives in his home at this very moment and to not just barge right in?
We cannot be afraid of the bullies of the NRA or anyone else who thinks they can understand what happened to us more than we do. We cannot be ok when they say if they were in our shoes they would have “taken care of the situation.” We cannot sit idly by and allow citizens of this country be fooled into thinking that just because we have the right to bare arms, that takes away our right to live. And now we have to live in constant fear that the person next to me can kill me at any moment. All he has to go is walk into a fishing store.
And finally, I leave you with the words of Jessica Ghawi, who just six weeks before her death witnessed a deadly spree shooting at a Toronto Shopping Mall which she posted about on her personal blog June 5th of this year —
Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I’d experience a violent crime first hand. I’m on vacation and wanted to eat and go shopping. Everyone else at the mall probably wanted the same thing. I doubt anyone left for the mall imagined they witness a shooting.
I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.
In honor of Jessica, Alex, Micayla, Veronica, Matt, AJ, Rebecca, Jesse, John, and every other senseless victim, let’s make sure the proper legacy is remembered this time.