In Boulder, like Aurora, life wins. Terrorism and murder lose.
Despite unfathomable pain and apprehension, King Soopers this week reopened the store in a Boulder neighborhood that not yet a year ago was the scene of a mass shooting. An Arvada gunman killed 10 people inside the store last March.
Boulder joined Aurora and a growing number of communities that not only suffer the atrocity of mass shootings, but the aftermath, too.
The pain and horror for the victims, their families and all of the community is beyond description and without limit.
Allowing ourselves to live with virtually unrestrained and unending gun violence and mass shootings illustrates a fundamentally broken society.
Just as tragic as our self-deceit and denial about the crisis is the fact that, rather than address it as a nation and as communities, we have chosen to find ways to live with our unique American sickness.
It means that each of us takes a risk each time we venture into a grocery store, our workplace, a movie theater and even a school.
It means that we have, as a society, resigned ourselves to accept and live with mass shootings and rampant gun violence as if they were nothing more than car crashes or severe weather.
It means that as we rack up more mass shootings in malls, military bases, nightclubs and even town squares, we have to decide what to do with these public venues after the unthinkable, and now inevitable, strikes again.
Columbine High School was among the first places in Colorado, and the nation, to be faced with the brutal reality of the aftermath of a mass shooting. What do you do with a school, a theater, a nightclub that has been the site of something so repugnant, so terrifying and so visceral?
The community of Columbine kept the school.
In Aurora, the decision for Cinemark on what to do with the theater that came to symbolize the horror of mass shootings wasn’t easy.
What the Aurora community saw of the horrific maelstrom at the theater didn’t come close to the terror victims suffered, nor the terror that all of us have imagined as their stories unfolded, just like they did in Boulder.
But Cinemark, and most Aurora residents, including families of victims, wisely separated a sick, heinous bully from the place he committed his atrocity.
The theater didn’t commit these crimes. James Holmes did.
The theater and the grocery store weren’t witness to the melees. We were.
Like in Boulder, some victims and community members called for the theater and the grocery story to be razed.
It would only take away an empty building, not the loss nor the pain that the shooters unleashed in these places.
By giving in to the natural urge to simply blot out what’s too painful to see, in Aurora, we would only have allowed Holmes to claim yet another victim.
It was the same for Boulder.
Instead, Holmes and Boulder shooting suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa — who has currently been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial at this time — have failed in terrorizing us any more than they did for the moments they drew guns against innocent people.
The owners of the Boulder grocery store, the Aurora theater and a growing number of other venues across the country have done their part to dull the terror and power guns provide and their abusers crave.
Rather than focus our justified wrath and disdain on the places where these mass shootings occur, we should focus on why we continue to permit these shootings to happen.
Gun violence isn’t about the places. It’s about the guns.
Ask the people who can do something about mass shootings and rampant gun violence to do something now. City council members, state lawmakers and members of Congress hold the power to reduce if not end America’s horrific scourge, but they won’t.
Returning public places to the public is about healing. Insisting on meaningful gun control is about prevention.