At least 12 dead and dozens injured, several seriously.
One gunman and one crowded theater.
The specter of copycats.
Northern Californians woke up Friday morning to live video coming from Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes, a young gunman reportedly wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, allegedly opened fire during a midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, a movie expected to gross $200 million this weekend.
Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks of 2001, Americans have been on various levels of alert, but anyone with an ounce of cynicism has recognized that movie theaters, malls and school events—so-called "soft targets" because they are gathering locations with little security—are ripe for domestic terror or deranged madmen.
The Friday morning massacre at the Century 16 in Aurora took place 19 miles and 13 years from Columbine High, but it’s the kind of tragedy that can open up wounds in every region in America.
Including Northern California, where a massacre at Oikos University in Oakland left seven people dead and three injured on April 2.
And even here in San Mateo, a former Hillsdale High School student just three years ago brought a chainsaw, 10 pipe bombs and a knife to campus in an attempt to kill his teachers. Alexander Youshock was last year of attempted murder for the Aug. 24, 2009, incident, in which teachers tackled him, preventing anyone from being injured.
All such events—not just the local ones—remind us of just how vulnerable we are.
And they bring the specter of copycats who think they can do it just a little better—or bigger.
Do we keep the status quo and prove that we haven’t been beaten, or do we make changes because we want to see next year, want to see our kids get married and our grandkids grow up?
The incident Friday morning is likely to start a discussion—a very real, very serious discussion—about personal safety in public places.
Let's start it here.
Should metal detectors become as standard as popcorn machines at movie theaters? Should there be armed security, or will a thick dude in a yellow jacket be enough to stop someone carrying a gun who wants to get in with or without a ticket? Will there be no more dress-up at the theater, since many originally thought the shooter was part of a themed stunt by the movie theater?
What do you think this morning, in light of these terrible events?
Click here to be directed to a support page for the victims.
Disclaimer: the YouTube video attached to this article is cell phone footage taken after the shooting. The video contains profanity.