Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Letter to Aurora, Colorado

Dear Aurora,

Tucson sends you its love.

The media reports specific numbers of killed and wounded, but we here in Tucson know that's only a part of the story. This happened to all of you, each and every one of you. We get it. Really, we do.

Everybody has a story, or is one degree of separation from a story, that puts a loved one on the way to or passing by when or right across the parking lot. That is true here in our small-town-metropolis of just over 1 million; it must be even more true in yours, one third our size.

Does it seem as if all the faces in town have the same glazed and dazed expression? Do you feel as if you are walking through a movie or a bad dream or any of the other banal explanations thrown your way? There's more than a little difficulty involved in realizing that this really did happen right there in your town.... where you shop and stroll and send your kids to the mall. It's just a regular town in a beautiful part of the country. We get it. Really, we do.

Colorado and Arizona may look like the Wild West to those back East, but we know that cowboy boots and silver belt buckles are only the outward trappings; in fact, we're just the same as everybody else. Going to the movies or going to the grocery store shouldn't be a cause for concern, no matter where you live.

Yes, you are a few miles from Littleton and it didn't take long for that connection to run as an undercurrent to the sorrow and the loss. Border skirmishes and guns-blazing-ATF-raids were our background noise. We know, as you do, that it has nothing to do with what happened that day. It's something with which to fill air time. People need to know why and cultural differences and prior bad acts fill the gap neatly.

Welcome to the eye of the media hurricane. For a while, everything will whirl around you. You'll see friends and neighbors and first responders on the screen just when you thought you could prepare dinner or sit down for an hour's televised diversion without being reminded that horror had struck just across the way. There is no escape; it's everywhere.

Not that you should or would forget those injured and lost, not that you ever could. Their stories are part and parcel of your memories of that night. The toothless 6 year old, the pregnant dad, the friends and the heroes, they are with you now and forever. We get it. Really, we do.

For those of you who were there, you are now the other, the ones to whom it happened. I did nothing more than take a girlfriend's daughter to meet her Congresswoman. I was Everywoman. It was an event, but the kind of event that grown ups and kids attend every day. Then, bullets flew. Suddenly I was iconic, I was everywhere, I was the neighbor who took the little girl to meet Gabby. My pseudonymous blog was suddenly inextricably connected with my real life, and my real life bore no resemblance to what it looked like the week before. It was a hard pill to swallow.

I saw the same confusion on the faces of Tucsonans I encountered. We were stunned. We were shocked. We never thought that such a thing could occur in our little corner of paradise. After all, it was just a sunny Saturday morning.... for you, a balmy Thursday midnight.... a regular day in a regular week that all of a sudden, without any warning, became another day that will live in infamy.
We get it. Really, we do.

What got us through those awful first few weeks, what has sustained us individually and as a community, has been the overwhelming love and support of a nation. President Obama came to us as a father and a husband, Brian Williams shared our pain on Dateline, late night talk show hosts sent their love. We were cosseted by kindness and comfort from total strangers. A ten year old in New Jersey, a grandmother in Iowa, long lost high school classmates - my heart was touched by those who knew me and those who thought that they did. Strangers accost me on the street, in restaurants, in the produce aisle and compliment me on my progress. Privacy? Not any more. I'm part of an historical event, just as you are. We have no choice.

I'm a public figure attached to an awful event and it's an odd place to be. It's not a role I sought, nor is it a role I can ignore. Without asking my permission, life threw a wrench into my carefully laid plans. My foundation was shaken in a very public way. My reactions have been scrutinized on an international scale. The Associated Press and National Public Radio and the New York Times have been in my living room. Who am I? Am I the same woman who picked up Christina-Taylor that morning? Am I a national figure worthy of public attention? Are my opinions more valuable because I was shot?

When the reporter sticks the microphone into your face, remember that we've been there, done that, and we get it. We really do.

You are not alone. The hearts of a nation are sharing your pain. The attention will wax and wane as the judicial process grinds its way forward, and events will occur that bring back the emotions you think you have carefully packed away. PTSD may rear its ugly head. Time will dull the pain, and you'll have moments where you don't hear the shooting or the screaming. I promise.

You can choose to allow the events of that night to change your life or you can choose to ignore it as best you can. Opinions will fly, full of certainty and conviction. Others will presume that they know just how you are feeling. Strangers will approach you in parking lots and reporters will call and ask for your reaction the next time something awful occurs..... and there will be another time... and another.

Political and philosophical conversations aside, the personal piece is yours and yours alone. If I've learned anything at all from my experience, it's that every one involved has his or her own reality. No one is more accurate, more precise, more right than another. This happened to you as individuals, but it happened to your town and your country, too. Everyone feels the need to weigh in. There is a new definition to your existence.

It's an interesting, pock-marked road to travel. Please, remember that you are not on your own. We get it. We really do.

The Woman Who Took The Little Girl to See Gabby


  1. This was a really lovely letter to the people of Aurora. My heart still aches for you and now them.

    Know this is off topic, but I love the new sections and artwork on the blog.

    Sending hugs your way.

    Megan xxx

  2. I didn't know what else to do, so I wrote. Aches need soothing; sending love is all I know that really works.

    Glad you like the new look, Megan :)

  3. I always enjoy your writing AB, since you are an excellent writer. And this topic? Your totally heartfelt writing brings tears to my eyes. I hope many people in Aurora find your blog!

  4. So beautifully said, as always. You are able to paint such a clear picture with a few words. Thank you for touching my heart.

  5. Thank you for such a beautiful letter. I wish each resident of Aurora could receive this letter. As you are doing I'm sending my love and healing thoughts to those people.

  6. Amen. (through the nodding in agreement and the tears) AMEN.

  7. The way you explain things are just flawless. I wish that your all wishes may come true..Amen.

    Birthday Letter to Girlfriend

  8. Thank you all.... for the compliments and the loe you are sending Aurora's way.

  9. As always, beautifully written by you, my hero....

  10. Awww, Julie. It's a matter of carrying on. What else can one do?


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