The Unsung Heroes of the Aurora Shooting

Well, not really unsung, just not sung loudly enough.  Their heroism should be like a belting-out-with-all-your-might-in-a-stadium-with-equally-enthuistic-fans sung.

Actually, there were many, many heroes that night whose praises should be sung out that way, but right now let’s focus on the Aurora police department. These guys have so impressed me, I’ve been looking for a cop to bear hug and shower with steak dinners and warm cookies.

Let’s back up. Last Thursday/Friday night my family attended the midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises at our local AMC Theater – 15 miles from Aurora. As we approached the entrance to the complex, cops were standing guard. This made me feel both frightened and safe: frightened that an event like this was potentially dangerous; safe because our police department foresaw this, so were standing watch.

Midnight showings of long-awaited films have a joyful, carnival atmosphere.  People dress up in costumes. Theaters let you bring your own food so small feasts abound in the isles. Strangers strike up animated conversations like old friends.  Teens perform movie scenes at the front of the theater (a perfect “stage”) to entertain the crowd.  It’s a time to indulge in some innocent fun; to break loose and let your defenses down.

Predictably, some high school kids went down front and began to play out fight scenes from previous batman movies, showing off their flips and fancy moves.  The crowd laughed and cheered them on until a police officer made them stop, enforcing that the area must remain clear of people.  Troy and I thought he was being a fuddy-duddy at first, but soon saw the wisdom: it would be all too easy for a real-life villain to open fire from that position into the packed stadium seating.  I became nervous because for the first time in all of our midnight show attending history our kids were not beside us, opting instead to sit with friends. I began to work through how I would get to them if anything bad happened, but soon comforted myself with the knowledge that, while Batman watched over Gotham from the heights of skyscrapers, our neighborhood police were remaining vigilant on the ground.

Soon, the movie started and all uneasy thoughts vanished.  Afterward, we had a wonderful time debating the good and bad of the film as we always do. While I enjoyed it, I was a little irritated and turned off by its portrayal of the Gotham Police Department.  Spoiler alert: the Gotham Police not only all go into an underground tunnel where they are – no surprise – quickly trapped by the villains, but later approach the bad guys from a narrow street where they are easily gunned down – something your average 12 year old knows is tactically ridiculous. Why, in these super hero movies, are the police so often portrayed as incompetent and foolish?  I felt it was dishonoring to the many men and women who uphold our rights and keep us safe.

Five hours later a friend woke me with a worried phone call.  “You didn’t go to the AMC in Aurora last night did you?” When I said we hadn’t, she told me about the shooting.  I thought I was dreaming because of my thoughts from the night before, but alas, the events of July 20th were all too real.

Besides the horror of the event, the thing that impressed me most was how quickly the Aurora police were on the scene – 60 to 90 seconds after the first 911 call.  They were so fast, they apprehended the suspect in the parking lot.  Then, when it was revealed that there were explosives in his apartment, they evacuated his building and the one beside it, contemplated the complicated tripwires for days, and then performed a controlled detonation.  No more lives were lost.

As president Obama said later, the Aurora Police Commissioner “did everything right.”

The police often get a bad rap.  We loathe them for pulling us over when we breach a traffic violation as if they do it purely for the money – like they’re throwing department parties with it instead of providing a consequence for unsafe driving. Never once do we thank them for enforcing the rules placed for our protection – even from ourselves. We take for granted that they will protect us instead of extorting bribes for basic services like the law enforcement in so many other countries.

Like our military, our local police departments daily put their well-trained lives on the line to provide the invaluable service of keeping us safe – and are paid a pathetic fraction of what their work is worth. How do we show our appreciation? By portraying them as incompetent so the audience sees the need for a fictional super hero. We should be ashamed.

Don’t get me wrong; The Dark Night Rises was entertaining and fun.  However, shortly after midnight, when a real bad guy let evil reign in him, those in the Aurora AMC didn’t need Batman. Why?

They had their local police department.

More than super hero enough.


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