RAISING ELLE
A 16-Year-Old’s Wise Words, After the Aurora Shootings
by Martinique Davis
Aug 04, 2012 | 2615 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

My 16-year-old cousin was in the theatre in Aurora the night our country’s most recent nightmare came to life, and witnessed firsthand the senseless hate and violence unleashed on the innocent and undeserving.

In the aftermath, my aunt admits she is having a harder time processing the tragedy than my her son is. My aunt couldn’t protect her child from that night of horror, and though we all are awash with the relief that Justin made it out unscathed, my aunt has in recent days gone through the painful, slowly dawning realization that her youngest child – a teenager who had looked forward to the Batman premiere all summer long, and who left the house that night giddy, wearing his Batman belt and his Batman shirt – wound up an unsuspecting witness to the worst evil imaginable, as senseless violence rained upon the innocent and unsuspecting.

And even if my aunt had been in the Aurora movie theater that night, she wouldn’t have been able to stop what my cousin saw, or what he went through as he fought to escape it. There is nothing she could have done to save his childhood innocence from evaporating in a spray of gunfire.

My cousin spoke of having compassion for the shooter, when he was interviewed by Good Morning America the day after the tragedy. “We don’t know what he was going through,” Justin told the reporter.   

If one of my loved ones had been shot and killed in that theatre, could I say I have forgiveness for the man who aimed the gun? If today my family was mourning the death of my cousin Justin, could we muster the strength to forgive the man who so callously pulled the trigger?

I can’t say for sure, but something tells me that I cannot play a role in ending the cycle of hate by harboring hate myself. As a mother I must ask myself: How do we begin to mend those frayed edges of our society? How do I raise children in a world where an innocent night at the local theatre can end in a bloody massacre?  

The wisdom that my young cousin took out of his experience that night takes my breath away.

“We just have to keep living our life. And rise,” he told the reporter.

What I take that to mean is that the more attention we pay to the cruel and sickening aspects of this event, the more we feed the evil machine. The bodies, the chaos, the screaming, the blood, the violence. It is important for the survivors of this tragedy to analyze these scenes. But the rest of us? What do we do with it? How do we use this information, these horrific scenes, and make them into something that makes us better, stronger, more resilient?  

I hadn’t watched the news that morning. But I didn’t need televised images and broadcast firsthand reports from the theatre shooting in Aurora to understand deep in my being the gravity of what had just occurred.

A knot ballooned in my stomach when I heard from a coworker what had happened. It was, I imagine, the same reaction that most parents in America felt upon first hearing the news that a gunman had opened fire at a Batman movie premiere.

So many kids must have been there, I thought, as my the knot squeezed my insides a little tighter. So many kids, and now, so many grieving parents.

As a relatively new parent, I am beginning to see the world anew – both its breathtaking splendor, but also its macabre cruelty. So while I wake each morning to the vision of two curly-haired little girls who splash my world with sunshine, I also lie in bed at night staving off my fear of what dangers might await them in this world’s darker corridors.

Protecting your children from harm is a tremendous obligation of parenthood. That compulsion to protect comes from some deep and feral place, embedded in a parent’s psyche. I felt the full force of that visceral, parental impulse to protect my child the night she lay in a hospital bed, her airway constricted by a virus, and it yanked me out of my horror when she actually stopped breathing and pushed me into the action that saved her.

Although my family escaped that nightmare relatively unscathed, a corner of my consciousness is scarred, because I know that I won’t always be there to protect my children. And even when I am, there are some things I simply can’t protect them from.

Just a day after he struggled to escape the scene of chaos in his hometown movie theatre, Justin went back to the movies. Wearing his Batman belt and his Batman shirt, he went to another theatre and watched Batman.

“I wanted to finish this for all the people who didn’t get to,” he said.

That was Justin’s way of using the unsettling events of that night for something good. It was a simple act, but it showed how he rose above the mewling depths of hate and fear churned up by one disturbed member of our human race, and kept living his life.

And while I cannot shield my children from the evil in the world, just as no parent can wholly protect their children from harm, I can keep living my life; better, stronger, and with less fear of the things I cannot control.  

We must strive to replace the fear and the hate with something that will actually serve us: We must slow down, and love each other more. Stop and breathe and look our children in the eyes when we speak to them. The more insane our world becomes, the more our children need to hear and see and touch and taste the love that surrounds them. Hate begets hate. Violence spawns violence. Fear creates fear. But that cycle works the other way too. Out of love blossoms love.

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