You’ve probably heard about the incident in Bailey, Colorado yesterday. An armed man held six high school girls hostage, eventually fatally shooting one of them before taking his own life. Generally, I don’t take stories like this too seriously. Unfortunate things happen in our society. Children are harmed by people who aren’t quite right in the head. Some people out there will commit depraved acts for no good reason. If I spend all my time being emotionally affected by these, I wouldn’t be able to function. At some point you have to detach yourself from the bad news and move on with life.
For some reason, this latest event kind of got to me. Yesterday, when I heard there was a standoff and that a gunman had hostages at a high school, I didn’t really think much of it. As I said, these things happen. I don’t let myself worry over every little thing that I’m not personally involved in.
As I drove home from work, I heard that the standoff was over, one of the girls that had been a hostage was on a helicopter heading toward a Denver hospital and the gunman was in custody. At that point, it was pretty much story over for me. No one was dead, the SWAT team went in and did their job, business as usual, everyone go back to their regularly scheduled lives.
Later, I found out that the gunman fatally shot the girl as she tried to run after he used her as a human shield to protect himself from SWAT members. Then he shot himself.
This is not how these situations end.
The innocent young girl doesn’t die. The other girls who were hostages at some point don’t have that day burned into their minds for the rest of their lives. The bad guy is taken out by the heroic sheriff fighting for the children of his small town. At least that’s how it would end in the movies.
In the movies, the hero never dies and always does just enough to win at the last second - long enough that we get our fix of suspense, but it’s a suspense more along the lines of “How will he pull it off this time?” than “Will he make it?” In the movies, the bad guys always get it in the end. They are either killed or captured in reverse order of their importance to the plot or their past history with the hero. In the movies, innocent people die early, before we become attached to them to serve as motivation for the hero to triumph. When someone on the good side dies unexpectedly after we got to know their character and pulled for them to make it, we talk about how realistic the movie was, and how the directors really took a big chance with that part of the story.
The fact we allude to is that, in real life, innocent people get hurt for no good reason. Innocent kids get hurt for no good reason. And it isn’t a realistic movie that people can wipe their hands of the greasy popcorn and walk away from. Somewhere last night, two parents had to face the fact that their daughter went to school one day and never came home.
Things like this happen. I don’t think I’m desensitized to it because of movies. I don’t blame pop culture for making violence and death acceptable. I think if we were unable to turn off a personal reaction to every tragic event that happens, the majority of us would be emotional wrecks unable to function.
I don’t know if it was the fact this happened at a school, the order that I heard about the events, or the overwhelming coverage of the events I’ve been exposed to as a result of living in the area where it happened. I’m not advocating a reaction to cry for everyone that has ever had anything bad happen; just realize that you really are lucky to be safe and sound. And, if you happen to be the person that bad things happen to, whether you know it or not, somewhere, there is someone who cares.