Today, I'm sharing over at Prodigal. On July 20, 2012, I was in a small cabin motel in the middle of the east Texas woods, editing film from a preteen camp when I received an alert on my iPhone from The New York Times, then by two text messages, an iMessage, and four emails, that a shooting had taken place in a theater in Aurora, Colorado.
It was late, I had already taken my sleeping pill and was preparing for an early morning after a late night, but the news pushed me into motion. I calculated the distance between Aurora and Colorado Springs, which was 68 miles. Jerry, my best friend, was visiting his girlfriend and her family for the weekend and they had a summer home in Colorado Springs. The likelihood of their proximity to the event was minimal, but I texted him all the same.
I asked first how he was, then how his people were.
Degrees of separation being what they are, it was not unlikely that though they were safe, someone they loved was not.
I pulled up my contact list. I knew people in Colorado, some of them in Aurora, and I worked down the list of cities and states and summer homes and family vacations and proceeded with the appropriate response to each—emails, calls, texts, whatever was the common of our communication in times past. This took approximately an hour and, when I still hadn’t heard from Jerry, I passed the time in the early morning by considering a friend of mine who was interning somewhere in New Zealand.
In New Zealand, the shooting hadn’t happened yet.
I was reminded of the irrational words of Joan Didion on this subject and was surprised to find myself proving them to be true. What had happened in Colorado had already happened in Texas, but it had not happened yet on the other side of the world. They were still rolling toward it and, perhaps, one of them could be warned so as to alert those in the future. I succumb to the sleeping pill and the madness of questioning grief shortly after.
Except it had already happened in New Zealand. By about four hundred miles. The international date line cut four hundred miles off the coast of New Zealand. It was already tomorrow; it was already aftermath; it was already first response and funeral arrangements.