What's it like to live in Colorado? It's tough. Again.
By Andy Stonehouse
By Andy Stonehouse
A lot of people contacted me over the weekend and asked what it was like to live - as I do - a 15-minute drive from last week's mass killings here in Colorado.
I said, "I get the feeling I've been through this before. Several times. And, sadly, I get the feeling that we'll go through it again."
Many of us got these calls in the early hours on Friday - asking if, heaven forbid, we'd been out at that Aurora movie premiere, or if we knew someone who had. Most of us in the greater Denver-area breathed a sigh of relief that we had not.
We spent the weekend with family, we welcomed the visit by President Obama and the thoughtful speeches by Mitt Romney, and we found ourselves once again becoming the center of world media attention. For, once again, the wrong reason.
And then we all got up this morning and we came to work. Because life goes on.
What's it like to live in Colorado? As I've found in my 14 years in the state - I'm a transplant, like so many of us who've come to live in a place with more sunny days than California and, depending on the year, fantastic snow for skiing - it's generally a pretty nice part of the country, and a good place to live.
It's also got a history of violence, one that continues to build in a slow an inexplicable way that makes all of us normal, hard-working, regular folks wonder what our problem might be, exactly.
It doesn't take much to have less than a degree of separation from our growing Wikipedia page of atrocities. My friends attended Columbine High School or lived in that neighborhood, and I watched that 1999 tragedy unfold on TV in a Colorado newsroom.
I interviewed Michael Moore when he came to town to premiere his movie on the killings, and watched as he rolled two of the shootings' survivors out on stage with him in a grotesquely self-aggrandizing gesture. I don't rent Michael Moore movies anymore.
A former coworker's daughter was killed in 2006 during an invasion at a Platte Canyon High School in nearby Bailey, Colorado. I see him frequently on cable shows discussing subsequent violent attacks, with considerably more restraint and resolve than the Columbine parents have shown in our incessant local and national coverage.
A young man who went on a shooting rampage in 2007 in both Denver and at a church in Colorado Springs lived less than a mile from our office. Like the Columbine debacle, he'd purchased an assault rifle despite some fairly obvious mental issues and then managed to keep it around his house without his parents noticing, or doing anything.
The stories, it seem, go on and on.
We are not unique, however. A friend from Blacksburg, Virginia - whose Facebook post this weekend read, in anxious terms, "I hate guns" - has seen multiple visits of inexplicable mass murder in his hometown. I think of people in Fort Hood, Texas.
A few months before it happened, I vacationed a half mile from the Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, where Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were injured and six were killed. I think of families and friends touched by similar acts of violence at other random spots across the nation.
And across the world, I remember - this weekend being the first anniversary of the, again, inexplicable mass murders in Norway. My native Canada also has seen a rash of recent gun-related mass fatalities, despite draconian gun regulations, introduced after our own mass killing at a college in Montreal in 1989. Not to mention today's headlines about 103 people killed in a single day in a "pacified" Iraq.
So we scratch our heads and wonder what the problem might be. We'll certainly see the players in this year's political cycle make hay out of the most recent killings. Another angry, disaffected young white man with - perhaps, psychiatric issues - will be held indefinitely in preparation for a long, expensive trial. And with Denver having been the venue for the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trials, we've been through that before, as well.
We're strangely used to this thing. And as I told friends this weekend, we'll see it again. Is it something in the water in Colorado? Our standoffish Western heritage? Some sort of breakdown in the moral fabric? Our lax gun laws - though they're about the same as you'd find in most other parts of the United States?
I don't have the answer. I just know that I've gotten tired of the same headlines playing out here. One of my coworkers attended a memorial service for the multiple Aurora victims this weekend. I wish we did not have to play that scene out, over and over again.
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com