Real heroes emerge in Colorado

July 26, 2012


“Am I my brother’s keeper?” — Genesis 4:9

A few words about the tragedy in Aurora, Colo.:

In “Dark Knight Triumphant,” the second chapter of a four-part Batman graphic novel, there is an incident in which a goggle-eyed, mentally disturbed young man with orange hair shoots up a movie theater. Three people are killed.

That scene, published in 1986, carries a new and frightful resonance now. How could it not? Last week in Aurora, a goggle-eyed and perhaps mentally disturbed young man with orange hair allegedly shot up a theater playing a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” A dozen people were killed, 58 wounded. Life imitates art imitating life.

That graphic novel was a sensation far beyond the comic book shops. Rolling Stone noted its “bold thematic twists.” The Los Angeles Times called it “a vivid psychological study.” The Washington Post praised its “edgy realism.”

Writer and artist Frank Miller pictured an aged Batman coming out of retirement to save a Gotham City overrun by nihilistic terrorists. Batman’s town had become a lawless place where the good people were cowed mute by fear. It was a new take on the ancient central conceit of the American superhero myth. Meaning the idea that we are watched over from the rooftops above by a man (or woman) with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men and women, a capable somebody who will fight what we cannot.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s somebody who will see that the bad thing doesn’t happen and that the bad people get what’s coming to them, somebody who will, just when things look hopeless, save us.

Lord knows we could use some saving.

Could have used it at Columbine and at Virginia Tech. Could have used it in Tucson. Could have used it last week in Aurora.

You know what happened there, of course. How a man left the theater and returned through the exit door wearing body armor. How he threw smoke grenades. How he started shooting.

In a place of escapism, where people had gone to enjoy the fantasy of a man who could fight what we cannot, hell broke loose and chaos reigned. As, periodically, they must. In a gun-besotted nation where the right of each citizen to possess as many weapons of mass destruction as he or she wants is considered sacred and inviolable, who can expect otherwise? We are all vulnerable, always.

And yet, vulnerability is not surrender.

That awful night in Aurora. Jonathan Blunk, a 26-year-old Navy veteran, shielded his girlfriend from bullets with his own body. He died. Matt McQuinn, 27 and Alex Teves, 24, also shielded their girlfriends. They died, too.

Stephanie Davis, 21 years old, dropped down to the floor where Allie Young, 19, was bleeding out from a bullet wound to the neck. Allie told her to run but Stephanie wouldn’t. She stayed there, applying pressure to the wound even as the gunman kept shooting. Both young women survived.

In an instant, called upon to be heroes, ordinary people in an ordinary suburb became exactly that.

Frank Miller wrote about a vigilante who came back to save the people. We cannot know if that inspired the orange-haired man in Colorado — you will not read his name here — to do what police say he did or whether his inspiration came from something else equally senseless. What we can know is that in the awful moment of decision, people covered one another, took care of one another, saved one another.

It is the single hopeful note from the carnage of that evening, the one example worth holding and cherishing and carrying forward from this awful time, not least because it gives the lie to that central conceit of the American superhero myth.

You see, heroes don’t come from above.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


FalseHopeNoChange 5 years, 5 months ago

"Real Hero's".....don't you mean Liberal Hero's for us Liberals?

"In a gun-besotted nation where the right of each citizen to possess as many weapons of mass destruction"

Gun-besotted 'Switzerland' comes to mind Pitsky.....where stuff like this does not happen....ever been to Switzerland?

That awful night in Aurora. Jonathan Blunk, a 26-year-old Navy veteran, shielded his girlfriend from bullets with his own body. He died. Matt McQuinn, 27 and Alex Teves, 24, also shielded their girlfriends. They died, too.

I bet if Jonathan and Matt had 'automatic' weapons like "Gun-besotted" Swiss do, the complex highly intellectual 'orange hair guy' would have been rendered useless.

What do you think about that Liberal bipeds?

I bet if the complex highly intellectual 'orange hair guy' had "thought" there might be a "gun-besotted" Jonathan inside the theater, just "thought" there was a 'serious' "Gun-besotted" Matt lurking in the darkness, he would have brought 'flowers' to them instead of a 'banana clip' of live rounds....and Pitsky's "hero's' would be alive with their sweeties instead of dead.

Thanks to 'gun haters ' DRD4 Genies like you Pitts. Your hero's are dead.

What an "awful" night your "Hero's" sweeties had Pitts

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 5 months ago

I can match you country for country, FHNC. It doesn't happen in Ireland, either, where guns are outlawed to the point where not even the Gardia (the civil police) carry them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"Switzerland and Ireland have a single culture."

Switzerland has four official languages. Ireland (including N. Ireland) has just emerged from a decades-long civil war.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Or maybe unstable people get the help they need in these countries and can't their hands on guns anyway. It's a whole lot harder to kill lots of people with just a knife.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 5 months ago

James Taranto, a commentator at the FOX owned Wall Street Journal, had this to say about the Aurora shootings:
"I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice."
So, does he mean that he hopes that the girls put out to their saviors before they died? Or does he hope they were "pure" enough for the sacrifice? Either way, it was a totally disgusting thing to say.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe he meant he hopes one of them will win a Nobel Peace Prize. Or maybe he meant one of them will become a great leader and unite our people. Or maybe it was a commentary on our society where women are expected to sacrifice their lives for children and men are expected to shield the women during movie house massacres. Or maybe ... actually, I can go on and on. Maybe, Cait, you're reading into his comment something he did not intend.

Orwell 5 years, 5 months ago

He meant it's OK to make a moral judgment about the value of a young woman's life. And it stinks.

jaywalker 5 years, 5 months ago

James Taranto, once again proving that tweets are only good for showing what twits some people are.

Alyosha 5 years, 5 months ago

Trying to unpack this comment's woefully fallacious constructions:

  1. Reasonable regulation of dangerous firepower = wholesale banning of all guns. False premise / sloppy logic.

  2. Murderous tyrants historically have banned guns. Thus, anyone who supports regulation of dangerous firepower = murderous tyrant.

Again, woefully sloppy logic, which leads to invalid and easily discardable conclusions.

Try a bit harder to learn how to inoculate your thinking to avoid the common logical fallacies we are all heir to. That way you won't waste your time (or other readers') with senseless and useless statements — you know, the opposite of the kind the Founders would make.

mom_of_three 5 years, 5 months ago

You dont think the Founders made useless statements. Of course they did, in their time period. How Jefferson said blacks could never be a poet due to their intellect, the natives needed assistance to be assimilated, Adams told his wife that women didnt need the vote or rights, when she brought it up. They made pretty dumb comments in their lifetime.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

That's right-- homegrown white terrorists like Holmes should not be discriminated against.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Correction? You have no idea what his politics are (and mass murder certainly isn't "liberal,") he's a failed academic, and I have no idea where you dredged up "federal employee."

Beth Ennis 5 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Pitts picked out the sacrifices made in this horrific incident and you are critizing it? So, FHNC, you can't have it both ways. I don't normally make assumptions, but since you are using the word liberal like it is a swear word or a horrible thing, I'm going to assume you are a conservative. You want to compare us to switzerland? Aren't you one of the ones who wants to cut government back to nothing? How are we going to pay for a gun for every citizen and training for that weapon for every citizen if we cut back government? Also, if I'm not mistaken, every citizen of switzerland is mandated to do some military service. I also think that the reason they give every citizen a gun and train them on it is because they don't have a huge military, and if their country ever were taken over, all their citizens would need to defend it. So, are you willing to raise taxes to do this? No?? Why am I not surprised. It's so easy to let all that hatred spill out of your mouth, when in reality, you really don't have a leg to stand on. No one is trying to get rid of the 2nd amendment or ban weapons. However, most people would like to see all weapons registered and all owners of weapons training, just like we do for vehicles and drivers licenses. What do you find so repulsive about that? If everyone is trained that owns a gun, then we might not have to worry so much about that stray bullet that might take out someone you love. Let's see how you feel about it then. One last thing, if there had been someone in the theater with a gun, and they did return fire, and lets say, being under stress of combat, they hit an innocent victim or 2 while trying to take the gunman down.....are they going to be held responsible for their actions? Or, are we to become the wild west again? Just curious.....

Beth Ennis 5 years, 5 months ago

ps--I think this was another great article by Mr. Pitts, and I was very happy to see the shooters name not mentioned. I wish all the press would honor that. Who needs to know this guys name. It just gives others who want to copy cat another reason to do something, for their 15 minutes of fame.

dncinnanc 5 years, 5 months ago

Methinks that a dark, smoky theater full of panicked people blindly trying to shoot at one moving person would have resulted in a much more tragic event.

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

Gotland, you are now blaming the people who got shot? Wow, truly pathetic.

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

So putting quotation marks around "Heroes" and calling people defeatists isn't blaming the victims and isn't pathetic? Oh, I see.

Jaded_one 5 years, 5 months ago

Just think if we are all armed with assault weapons, RPG's etc. it would have been an awesome shootout. Theater full of kids scrambling for cover among the crossfire... yep more guns that is the answer...

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

The video shows a brightly lighted buidling with few people inside rather than a dark, smoke-filled and packed theater with someone shooting. The man got off six shots, hitting his target three times. In a crowded theater, those three missed shots could have killed innocent bystanders.

Also, this situation shows an attempted robbery, not a massacre averted. This video and the situation in Colorado are light-years apart.

bad_dog 5 years, 5 months ago

Except it was a robbery attempt, not a massacre and didn't involve a crowded theatre.

Other than that, you're spot on...

gogoplata 5 years, 5 months ago

I realize there are some different variables but certainly not light years apart. This video proves that good guys with guns have an option that good guys without guns don't have. I'm sure no shooting or self defense situation is exactly the same. Carrying a gun for self defense doesn't guarantee your safety but just gives you another (often better) way of defending yourself.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 5 months ago

I get what Pitts is saying. I suspect there were people in that movie who were carrying despite the legal aspects. In a situation like that it would have taken a lot of nerve to stand up and return fire. Most people will not pull the trigger on another human unless they have been trained to do so.

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

You are probably right. That still doesn't mean it would have had a better outcome had people in the theater started returning fire. It could have meant more lives lost.

Just so you know, they might also say they wish others never had the opportunity to purchase an arsenal that could be taken into a theater in the first place.

gogoplata 5 years, 5 months ago

It could have meant more lives saved. Who knows it could have saved every life that night. Neither one of us has a crystal ball to tell us exactly what would have happened if we go swapping variables in the situation here and there. Human beings have the right to self defense and it should be up to each individual how they choose to do that.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

Click count, Agno. Editors love the trolls.

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