Will it ever end

Published 10:35 am Saturday, July 21, 2012

It’s hard to sit in front of my computer today and think about much else besides the tragedy that took place in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning.

At least a dozen innocent lives were lost and scores of others were scarred forever because someone lost their mind and decided to shoot up a crowded movie theater.

We don’t yet know much about the perpetrator or what motivated him to commit such an atrocity, and frankly, I don’t really care. Because regardless of what triggered in his brain or unraveled in his personal life, several families will spend the rest of their days missing a brother or sister or mother or father or son or daughter.

It’s a tragedy of the highest order.

Our hearts are broken for those who lost someone and for those who were injured or bore witness to the event and will bear the physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.

I think of all the times I have sat with my children in a darkened movie theater eating popcorn and drinking sodas, and how horrifying it must have been the instant their world erupted into violent chaos.

I am also saddened by my lack of surprise that this has happened again.

Thirteen years ago, when two troubled teenagers went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School 15 miles away from where Friday’s movie theater killings took place, the world came to a screeching halt. It was inconceivable, at least to me, that something so brutal and horrific could happen anywhere, let alone in a school full of children.

I was absolutely stunned, as were many of you I suppose, by the images of children fleeing their school, some bloodied and running for their lives. I was captivated by the television coverage and the stories that came out of that gruesome event.

I can still vividly recall the father of one victim holding hands with the brother of another as they gave a television interview together the day after the shooting. I distinctly remember thinking that they were two of the most courageous people I had ever seen; two strangers who chose to face the world together, forever bound together by tragedy and indescribable grief.

As did many of you, I mourned not only for the loss of innocent lives, but also for the fact that our world had become a place where that kind of a tragedy could occur. I prayed that it would never happen again.

But of course it has, again, and again, and again.

In a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. At an immigrant community center in New York. On the campus of Virginia Tech. On an island in Norway. In a kindergarten classroom in Scotland. And now, in a movie theater in Colorado.

When I first woke up Friday morning and my wife told me what had happened the night before, the first thing that struck me was that sinking feeling in my gut.

What struck me next was how eerily familiar that feeling had become. The loss of innocent life to mass violence is the worst kind of human tragedy.

The fact that it now happens with such regularity is not far behind.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.