Last Friday there was a terrible tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, when a young man entered a midnight viewing of the new Batman movie and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 50 others.
Days like those force me to remember September 1999, when the Wedgewood shooting happened in my hometown, to people I knew. 7 people died that day. Their loss rippled through our community and still reverberates in our hearts. Every time there's another shooting I jettison back to that day. To the weeks and months and years after it. I think of my good friend standing next to her best friend, watching her die. I remember the fear and the confusion and the sorrow.
My heart goes out to Aurora, Colorado. I can imagine what they're going through. I've seen it firsthand.
Among the victims last week were a six year old, three young men who died protecting their girlfriends, and a young woman named Jessica. There are things about each victim that tug at me, but the one that really got inside me is Jessica. Jessica was an aspiring journalist from Texas, but that's not what made her stand out to me. After reading this article on Jessica and then reading her blog about how she narrowly escaped another shooting just a few weeks before she died, I couldn't get her out of my head. I've been thinking about her and what she wrote ever since.
This passage keeps replaying in my head: "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."
We aren't promised tomorrow. Hell, we're not even promised this afternoon. As my BFF likes to remind me, I could survive with my illness for another 50 years, and she could step off a curb and get hit by a bus today. Nothing is guaranteed. We aren't promised any definite amount of time. The only thing we have is right now, this moment.
And a single moment can define our entire lives, or even snuff it out. Your life can be going in one direction and then suddenly turn on a dime. I'm not sure that I can believe that everything happens for a reason. I don't think that bad things happen to teach us a lesson, either. I do believe, however, that reason can come from every happening, and I do believe that when bad things happen, there are things we can take from the experience. When tragedy knocks us off our feet, we have a choice: let it break us or make us.
One of the reasons I love Batman is that he rises every time he falls. He has made a career out of turning his tragedies into triumphs. He doesn't have any special powers other than his own wits and perseverance, and he is a self made man. He took his tragic experience and used it to shed light in a world where darkness and loss and pain can blindside you. Most of all, he brings hope. He shows us that heroes really do exist. This is evidenced in the young men who saved their girlfriends. This is shown in the actor who portrays Batman onscreen going to visit the surviving victims in the hospital. This is displayed in the outpouring of love and support from around the world for Aurora, Colorado.
I wish it didn't take devastating losses for us to stop and count our blessings, to take stock of our lives, to seize the day. I wish it didn't take people dying for us to truly begin to live. Unfortunately, bad things happen. But good things can be created from the wreckage.
Each of us has it in us to be our own hero. Every one of us has the choice to sit down and live in fear or to stand up and live our lives. We all have the opportunity to spread light and love in this world. All of us owe it to ourselves, and especially to those who are no longer with us, to live each and every day to its fullest.
Like Jessica said, "every second of every day is a gift." Are we going to let it sit, unopened, on a shelf, or are we going to unwrap it and put it to good use?
To pull from several of my favorite phrases and forge one amalgamated saying, this is my advice: Life is a daring adventure, so live it like you're dying, and take a chance; every second is a make it or break it situation, so be here now, and make it count.
We owe it to those taken too soon, to live extra in their honor. So be a hero, be a blessing, be truly alive.