People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting early Friday morning, July 20, 2012. Police Chief Dan Oates says 14 people are dead following the shooting at the suburban Denver movie theater. He says 50 others were injured when gunfire erupted early Friday at the Aurora theater. Oates says a gunman appeared at the front of one of the Century 16 theaters. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Karl Gehring)
I woke up this morning to Facebook chimes on my cell phone.
The posts all began the same: "Pray," "My thoughts and prayers ...," "SMH," "I can't believe it," "Wow," etc.
So, after praying, I immediately turned on the news and heard more reports of people 12 killed and 50 injured by a suspected gunman who opened fire at the premiere of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.
It became personal to me because it happened in my hometown, Aurora, Colo.; and at Century 16, where I watched movies as a teen.
Just last week, while on vacation in Colorado, I passed by that theater after shopping at the Aurora Mall, which sits on the same property. It is a fun area, with a Wal-Mart, library, 7-11, and several shopping centers within walking distance.
And, although I've lived in Oklahoma the past 15 years (college at Langston University, in Langston; and in Tulsa), I still consider Aurora home. I often tell Oklahomans "I'm from Denver" because most have not heard of Aurora. But, now, they have.
As Colorado's third largest city (behind Denver and Colorado Springs), and 56th most populous in the United States, Aurora should not be defined by this shooting rampage. A crazy gunman's antics do not change my perception of my city.
I know Aurora as a safe place. I would, however, question the security at the movie theater as far as how the shooter was able to avoid the security and enter through a back door like a real-life GI Joe. But all in all, it's a fun and safe environment.
My family still lives in the neighboring Aurora and Denver area, and it is a great place to raise children and visit.
The shooting caught me by surprise, but the fact that we live in a world with crazy people does not. I refuse to label my town after one disturbed dude.
If it can happen in Aurora, it can happen anywhere.
Every time I go back, I drive around Aurora and take in all the changes. Every time, I see a lot more businesses, more people (more than 325,000 residents, 2010 US Census) and a booming community.
And the state, Colorado, is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. The sun rises and sets everyday behind the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. The mountains are the western indicator for people in Aurora and because of it, you never lose which direction you're headed in.
So far, I do not know if I know any victims, as names have not yet been released. I do have a cousin who watched from the balcony of her home as emergency crews last night rescued dead and injured bodies. Even that, was saddening to hear.
All in all, in life, I feel we should live each day as if it's our last. Moments like these remind us not to take our lives for granted.
At least the families of 12 in my hometown now know that feeling, firsthand. I believe God blessed us to be here for this moment, and in that moment, we ought to appreciate life and love, similar to what President Obama said in response to the shooting.
"And if there is anything to take way from this tragedy, it is the reminder that life is very fragile," said Obama, who canceled his campaign events in Florida today in reverence to the happenings in Aurora. "Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters, at the end of the day, is not the small things. It’s not the trivial things that so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another."
With that said, please pray for the families of the deceased and victims of the shooting, and for my city, Aurora.
Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theater where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Police officers arrive at the Century 16 theater east of the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 20, 2012. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
President Barack Obama takes a moment of silence for the events in Colorado during a campaign stop in Fort Myers, Fla., Friday, July 19, 2012. Obama said the tragic movie theater shooting in Colorado that left 12 people dead is a reminder that life is fragile. He says the event "reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Araphoe County bomb squad suits up to enter the Century 16 movie theater, Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. The suspect is identified as 24-year-old James Holmes. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross)
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