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Death, Fear, Faith, Love

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As I write this, we’re a few days removed from the senseless shooting that took place in the Aurora, Colo. movie theater during the early hours of July 20. When I heard the news later that morning, I felt a range of emotions as I imagine many of you did—shock, anger, sadness, fear.

By lunchtime, I couldn’t make sense of it because there’s nothing in these horrific events that makes sense. So, I sought out one of those grueling exercise bootcamps and I worked out until I almost threw up. I had to find a way to release all the pain and emotions.

It worked, for a while. The hurt became a dull ache instead of a stabbing pain. But then on Saturday morning my seven-year-old daughter asked if we were still going to the movies that afternoon. And I shuddered.

The movie theater has always been one of my sanctuaries. My first job as a journalist, as a paid writer, was as a movie critic. It didn’t matter if I sat before a mindless entertainment flick or some French film where a smoldering guy in a beret spends his screen time leaning against a lamppost smoking a cigarette, making existential comments about a woman he’s lostI loved watching and writing about those magical images flickering across the big screen.

And even before that, as a boy, one of the great joys of my childhood was going to the movies with my dad. I remember classics such as Jaws and Star Wars, sitting before a screen that seemed as big as the moon, our mouths and eyes wide open, in awe of the great stories unfolding before us.

We’d been transported to other lives, even other worlds, and we’d always stagger from the theater, bleary-eyed, trying to refocus our vision to the reality of normal life. Walking to the car, I might swear to never again dip a toe in the ocean so real was my fear of Bruce the Shark. Or maybe dad and I would pantomime one of the great lightsaber fights and I’d feel the vibration of air across my lips as I made that sweeping, vacuum-cleaner noise.

On Sunday, July 22, I went to a service for the victims of the Aurora shooting. I live near the town. As you might suspect, the moment was emotional, painful, heartbreaking. A pastor read off the names of the victims and their ages, ranging from six to 51. I thought of my own daughter and my stomach turned flip flops.

You get in moments like these and you’re not sure which way to turn, where to go. I admit it, I was struggling. And then the pastor offered this nugget: “When fear knocks at the door and faith answers, there’s no one there.” In essence, faith crushes fear: Faith in a higher power or faith in yourself or faith in the freedoms and protections that our nation provides.

As we bowed our heads for a moment of silence, I made a promise to myself that I’d give my daughter a hug after the service and sit her down and tell her we’re going to stay home today. We’re going to take it easy and have a low-key afternoon. But next week, we’d go back to the movies because going to the movies is one of the things we love to do.

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