Editorial: An imperfect gratitude can be the start for healing
First in a series
It's hard to think of the term gratitude at a time when five innocent people are being laid to rest following an act of raw brutality. Our minds cannot fathom the injustice in the stories of the lives lost. Our hearts cannot contain the sorrow for them and their loved ones forever damaged. Yet, there are at least two things for which we can be sincerely thankful in this troubled time, one a general reflection of our shared humanity, another a specific demonstration by those who serve and protect us.
Regarding the first, it is a grim observation -- considering the growing frequency of such tragedies -- yet still an encouraging one to find so many hundreds of strangers still willing and eager to show their support and share in the grief of families who are suffering unspeakable loss.
Throughout a tortured weekend, hundreds of men and women, boys and girls, of all ages and all walks of life stopped by the murder scene in Aurora to leave memorials or attended vigils to light candles, to pray, to offer words of comfort and compassion.
"Aurora University students and the Aurora community are with you," reads a note placed near a makeshift memorial by an 18-year-old Aurora University student. "May you heal in time and peace."
These are the sentiments most appropriate and urgent in the immediate aftermath of such a horrific event, and they remind us that even in times of great sorrow, victims of tragedy do not have to suffer alone. In addition to the friends and family who unite around them, they have a community that acknowledges their burden and wants to help share it.
But simultaneously, we cannot help thinking about the men and women who rushed into the gunfire on Friday, with the discipline, training and courage to confront deadly conditions that can never be fully predicted. Nor about the support personnel who enabled them to do their jobs and the first responders of various agencies who had to apply their resourcefulness and skill in circumstances that will stay with them forever.
Indeed, in addition to our gratitude for their heroism, we also must recognize that Aurora's entire police force and first responder community are victims not just of the physical wounds to five of their own who were shot but of the mental wounds that trouble any team forced into an occasion of shared trauma. They, too, have a burden we will share as a community.
So, as we all find ways, both together and alone, to heal, we begin from an unlikely vantage point -- one of a painful appreciation for what remains, even as we mourn and reflect on what we have lost. That is only a beginning, of course. Other stages, also critical, must follow to help us assure that we will not again have to feel this imperfect gratitude in this aching, despairing way.