I am a writer, even at the worst of times I am rarely at a loss for words. In this case, I am afraid words fail me entirely.
I just received a note that verified a fear that had been lingering in the back of my mind since the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado.
Not that long ago, I went to the first ever Denver Comic Con, the first large scale comics convention in the city’s history, apparently. It was a massive success, completely sold out, and I fell in love with the town and the people of Denver. They could not have been kinder, more welcoming, or more genuine. They treated me like a friend, and everyone from the organizers, to the attendees, to total strangers, showered the legendary hospitality of their city down upon myself and my husband. Immediately after leaving, we couldn’t wait to start planning for a return visit at a future date.
It was also a convention with a huge number of cosplayers, and two of my absolute favorites were two characters well known to me, Knockout and Scandal Savage, played by two delightful, funny, fierce young girls, one of the highlights of a show full of highlights.My husband and I insisted on photos with them and they were kind enough to agree.
I was also interviewed for a video interview by a very sweet and considerate young man named A.J. Focht. He was as gracious as can be even though I had to reschedule the interview several times as my table was swamped.
Since then, I had had a terrible fear that someone I met at DCC would have been in that theater. ANY loss of life or threat of danger is a tragedy, but knowing it was someone that I met and really liked was just too scary to contemplate, somehow.
I just received a note from A.J. that confirmed my fears. A.J. and a group of people from the convention were in that theater, including Caitlin, the lovely woman playing Scandal Savage.
They both survived, thank god. But one of their group, Alex Teves, did not survive. He died a hero, trying to protect his girlfriend. Another of their group was hospitalized.
I am broken-hearted again. As relieved as I am to hear that these two people I barely know, but who left an indelible impression in that brief time, are alive, my heart goes out to them for what they lived through, and for the friend they have lost, and for the other friend who has suffered.
Because Caitlin was one of the first to tweet a message after, that she was okay, to let her family know she had survived, she apparently became hounded extensively by the press, and was not allowed to mourn in peace.
A.J. has written about this at the Suicide Girls website…please read: http://suicidegirlsblog.com/blog/back-row-perspective-part-1-an-aurora-theater-survivors-message-to-the-media/
My heart and my thoughts go out to the victims of that awful night, to the survivors, who are also victimized, and to their families. We all feel so empty and helpless, but we can insist that the media treat these people with respect and kindness. They do not need to be traumatized again.
Finally, I’m going to say something that has been in my mind since the first reports started coming in. I don’t want this to appear frivolous, I hope I say this correctly.
We have been seeing stories of impossible heroism that occurred that night in that theater. Jarrell Brooks, just nineteen years old, had an exit out of the theater, and went back in to help a young mother and her two daughters get out, getting wounded in the process.
Three men gave their lives using their own bodies to shield their girlfriends; Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and the member of my friends’ party, Alex Teves. All three threw their girlfriends to the ground and put their bodies in the path of the bullets. Not one of these men was yet out of his twenties.
Stephanie Davies, when her friend was shot in the neck, dropped to the floor and held pressure on the wound while the gunman was still firing, instead of making for the exit, quite likely saving her friends’ life.
Mike White, Sr., after his son, and his son’s girlfriend were shot, removed his shirt to apply pressure to her wound to save her life, and then as the gunman approached, put his body on top of hers to take the bullets if necessary.
There’s more, but this is what I keep thinking about.
I write stories about morals all day…stories about fictional heroes and fictional villains. And I want to believe they have influenced my life, that they have taught me to stand up when called upon, to try to do the right thing even when it is a sacrifice.
Few are called upon like the heroes of Aurora that night. They remind me what heroism really means. They give me hope. In the middle of the despair and shock, these people saw what needed doing and did it, regardless of the cost to themselves.
A lot has been made of the idea that the gunman was influenced by a fictional villain.
But I think it’s very telling to note that all those heroes, all those amazing, remarkable, beautiful people, came not just to see the latest Batman movie…they went to the first possible showing, a midnight show. They wanted to see Batman. I have seen the power that character has, I have felt it myself. He doesn’t kill, he doesn’t use guns.
He’s a good guy. A hero. A protector.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that THOSE remarkable people were there to see a movie about a hero.
Bless every one of them.
I think this was posted a few days ago, but I’ve been off most of the Internet recently for obvious reasons.
Here I was, thinking today would be the first day without tears since everything happened. These are good tears, though. I’ve never felt so loved by so many in my entire life, and it’s truly amazing. The outpouring of support from the fandom and entertainment community has been absolutely overwhelming. To read Gail’s words and know that I was not forgotten in all this madness gave me hope. The next time I see you, Gail, you’re getting a hug. A big one.
I actually met Mr. White that night, and in my daze, I didn’t understand at first why he didn’t have a shirt on. We were sitting on a bus to the high school where first responders took us after the shooting, and I realized this kind man had literally given the shirt off his back to save the life of another. We were a bunch of ordinary people, doing something ordinary people do every day—seeing a movie—and so many in that theater rose up and acted like heroes. Our friend who was hospitalized was the one who pulled me to the ground when the shooting started, with a frantic “Down!” He’s not my boyfriend, but he cared enough about me to be the guy who saved me.
I’ll never forget the smell of tear gas, blood, gunpowder, burning plastic (from the seats that were shot through), the sound of projector room glass shattering above my head. I’ll never forget running for my life, my custom Batgirl cowl still on my head, reaching the end of the parking lot and shrieking my friend’s names until A.J. emerged from the crowd, and we were able to find everyone but Alex. The long hours that followed were a blur, except for the moment I finally got through to a dear friend on the phone, and I knew someone outside the “tent”, as the police called it, knew I was alive and he was coming for me, to take me home. When he was eventually let through the security perimeter around 8AM, I’d never been happier to see another person, ever.
Despite the horror, despite all of it, I will also remember the humanity of what followed: the hugs, the messages from friends I haven’t seen in years, the offerings of support from Victim Advocates, the friends who practically force-fed me each day until they knew I was taking care of myself, the social media response from all over the world (even when “journalists” were practically breathing down my neck). And, as much as I miss Alex with all my heart, I’m certain that if he had the chance to do it all again, he would still be the biggest damn hero I know and do exactly what needed to be done. Alex believed in heroes, and I still do, too.
The world can still be a beautiful place, if we let it. In brightest day, in blackest night.
Caitlin, believe me, you ARE loved. You and Melinda and A.J. and all the rest.
I am typing through tears and nothing I can say is going to match your eloquent words. I read through the posts you three posted following this horrible night and was struck by the fact that in all three cases, you guys didn’t talk about yourselves and what you suffered, but about the welfare of others.
I am officially out of words. I met you guys for just a few moments and I thought you were remarkable.
But I didn’t know you were heroes.
I don’t know if the audience was inspired by comic book heroes, but I know for damn sure that from now on, my comic book heroes will be inspired by THEM.
Proud and honored to have met you. You three will be in my thoughts.
Oh @GailSimone, making me cry first thing in the morning.