Monday, September 2, 2019
Courage vs. Violence
We have been splitting our time this past year between Midland, Texas and Denver, Colorado, so the recent shootings in Odessa, as well as Highlands Ranch, were very close to home.
We traveled the highway from Midland to the airport between Midland-Odessa around noon on Saturday, August 31, chatting with the driver about her previous work as a special education teacher and her husband's recent return from the Middle East where he was deployed with the national guard. I consider people like that to be everyday heroes working in the trenches. She was a fascinating person with a remarkable story.
We didn't know until we landed that someone had gone on a rampage and killed seven people on the highway between Midland-Odessa. I don't mention the gunman's name because it's not important.
A gunman randomly shooting people is NOT a compelling story. It takes no unique skill or ability. It requires no courage or bravery.
I want to know about the other people involved. I read the tributes to the people who died in the incident, but I don't want to know about their deaths only. I want to know about their lives. I want to know about the histories of the first responders. Any of them could have been making a lot more money working in the nearby oil fields. Instead, they chose to stay in public service where they knew their lives could be in jeopardy. I want to know about the people evacuated from the movie theater that came close to disaster but escaped it. I want to know about the small kindnesses and acts of bravery.
I appreciate the Midland Reporter-Telegram reporting on the shooting victims as well as describing the bravery of Zack Owens, one of the police officers who risked his own safety to keep the gunman from going into the nearby Cinergy Movie Theaters. I hope we hear many more of these stories.
In May there was a similar incident at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, five miles from our home in Colorado. That's old news now. So many tragedies have happened in the months between. I liked the way the Denver News handled the STEM School incident. Their focus was on Kendrick Castillo, the young man who lost his life when he charged one of the shooters. Very little was said about the shooters, but Kendrick, his life, and his story were all over the news. Brendan Bialy, a survivor who also ran at one of the shooters said it best:
"As the trend is now to propagate the name of the shooter, shooters and their intents just kind of glorifies it, if anything inspires other people," Bialy said. "So in this happenstance, the absolute legend of the events of yesterday, Kendrick Castillo is the name I think should not go away to the sands of time." See Bialy's story at NBC NEWS.
It is of value to understand why people commit violence. When someone figures it out, I'd like to know that story, if it's short. But random violence isn't very interesting. It's easy. Anyone can replicate it. What I really want to know about are the everyday citizens who react to tragedy with courage, kindness, and fortitude. I want to know about heroes who don't even know they are heroes until they are suddenly called to action.
I hope that the news stories over the next few days and weeks focus on those heroes and their stories, and I hope that we, as a culture, start to value those stories more than we value stories of senseless anger. As we choose what to retweet, share to social media, and talk about around the water cooler, I pray that we can find those gems that may be hidden, but shine so much more brightly.