This is the third and final installment in a series of essays--the first two can be seen here and here--written by A.J. Focht, a Suicide Girls Blog contributor who survived the July 20 attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado by a gunman who killed 20 and left 58 more injured. While Focht's previous statements have been primarily geared at high-profile figures in politics and the media, this last piece is directed at the online community, who by and large have come together admirably to support the victims--with a handful of notable exceptions.
Thanks again to Mr. Focht for his contributions, and for allowing ComicBook.com to reprint them here.
In the hours following the carnage that took place at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, there was a remarkable flood of moving reactions from across the internet. It’s been more than a week since that awful night, and online communities remain one of the greatest allies for the victims.
Seventy of the innocent movie goers that entered Theater 9 excited to enjoy The Dark Knight Rises, ended the tragic evening either spread out among seven local area hospitals or in the morgue because of wounds inflicted by gunfire. Many of the victims were in serious or critical condition, and a total of twelve didn’t survive that night. Doctors and surgeons scrambled to help all of the victims, but their efforts were hindered by a blood shortage. Websites such as Lets’s Be Friends Again helped promote an emergency call for blood in this time of need.
A well-intentioned, if somewhat misguided, viral post requesting that Christian Bale visit the victims also did the rounds on Facebook. With dozens hospitalized in need of blood, a celebrity appearance was what the city wanted, but not what the city needed. More groups rose up and made efforts online to promote blood donation. Social media kept the blood drives fresh on everyone’s mind as the feeds were filled with images and articles encouraging donations.
It wasn’t just blood the patients in the hospital were in dire need of though. Many of the injured were without health insurance. A local standup comedian, Caleb Medley, was shot in the face that night. His medical bills quickly rose well into six figures; all the while, his wife Katie was in labor with their baby, Hugo. The family doesn’t have insurance and they fear the bills the young couple could be facing will haunt them for the rest of their lives. CalebMedley.com was established to accept donations to help ease the couple’s medical bill burden. With the help of social media, the story was picked up by major news organizations.
Caleb isn’t the only victim accumulating mountains of medical debt. A week after the shootings, twelve people remained in hospital, five in critical condition. Three Colorado hospitals announced they would waive or help with the medical fees the victims accrued. The charities being established for the victims and the hospitals’ support has laid a strong foundation to service this crucial need.
The city also got what it wanted. On his own accord, without contacting his publicist,Christian Bale showed up in Denver to visit the victims. No one would have even known Bale made an appearance if it hadn’t been for people tweeting and posting to Facebook from the hospital. Bale also visited the memorial set up near the theater.
Amazing acts of generosity and kindness have come through the social media networks, but that isn’t to say that everyone is sympathetic and respectful. Amongst all the calls for blood donations and the thousands of well wishes, social media feeds were beset with posts politicizing the issue, most of these honed in on the issue of gun control. Now, I am not saying that this isn’t the time to talk about gun control, but both sides used this disaster as an excuse to further polarize the debate, when in fact an air of pragmatism and compromise is needed if we are to effect lasting change for the better. In the middle of the raging gun control debate, were those who complained that this wasn’t the time to discuss the issue. In reality, this is the perfect time to discuss all issues that tie into this catastrophe, and guns are part of that.
My quick note on guns: While I don’t agree with absolute gun control, I can’t fathom why civilians are allowed to legally purchase military grade weapons, like the assault rifle that was firing at my friends and I. As for those who’ve posted comments along the line of “if only someone else in the theater had been armed,” your logic is flawed and misinformed. The coward in question opened fire on a crowd of unsuspecting moviegoers in a dark and confined space, dressed in full combat armor, neck and head covering included. More people firing guns would have only added to the confusion and senseless violence.
My final message to everyone on the internet is to just do the best you can with the resources available to you. This event has proven the power of social media networking. This is a power that each of us exercise every day. Whenever you ‘like’ or repost an article for your friends to see, that message gets passed a little further and becomes a bit louder. All I ask is that you start watching what messages you pass. As I asked of the media in my first post, please stop posting or reposting pictures of the shooter, or articles specifically about him. Stop giving him the attention and infamy he craves, and stop helping to write his name into the history books.
My personal challenge to everyone using social media: Convince Steam and the creators of the Batman Arkham series to put all affiliated games on sale for one day with proceeds going to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund.A.J. Focht is a student, writer, and self-identifying geek. He has a BA in English, and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Denver. He is a regular contributor to SuicideGirls. His work is also featured in Kush Magazine.