Saturday, July 28, 2012

From Carnage to Comical: How Aurora PD Laughed Again



In today's 24/7 news cycle, bad news shouldn't shock us. After all, that's usually all we see. And 8 days ago, that trend continued when a shoot-em-up, grisly murder scene leapt from the movie screen to reality. In the very place where people come to be entertained by imaginary violence, 12 people lost their very real, very precious lives.

Of course, we know all these facts by now. We know about Aurora, just like we know all about Columbine, Springfield, Fort Hood and so many others. And though we should be used to such tragedies, we never are...because as humans, we instictively know there is something better out there than this messed-up, sinful world.

My cousin Cody knows what evil looks like. He's the cop in the photo above. And he was working the graveyard shift on Friday morning, July 20 in Aurora, Colorado.

It had been a busy night. Cody was called out to bust up a domestic disturbance when he got word of a noise disturbance. Could he go check it out? Nope, he said, he was too busy.

They say God works in mysterious ways, and it's true. That fight saved Cody's life.

The shooter meticulously planned the massacre for months,  right down to attempting to kill as many cops as possible.The guy booby-trapped his apartment and set his music to blast suddenly at midnight. That first part of the plan worked; hence the call to police from his neighbors.

Protocol calls for police to go into any open door if necessary. The shooter knew that and left his door open, hoping all the police would rush to his apartment with the first blast, and therefore be spread thin when the theater 911 calls came in. But Cody was occupied elsewhere and so never went...thank God.

When he got word about the shooting, his squad car flew 110 mph through once-peaceful Aurora. Later, Cody's partner was assigned to stay with the bodies. The hours ticked by. The air began to change, while the cell phones, choked with worry from friends and family, rang incessantly -- the only sound coming from the dead. And there was nothing that the brave policeman could do about it.

Cody, along with the rest of the police department, was exhausted when dawn broke. Yet his very next shift, another big call came, this time for an apartment fire. It didn't look so good. Was this going to be another night of death and defeat?

Thankfully, no. Instead, it turned into a night of small triumph and a reminder that evil is only temporary.

And those lessons came from a squirrel.

As the fire climbed higher, cops and firefighters noticed a squirrel trapped by the flames. Of course, their priority was human life (and thankfully, everyone was saved that night), but they so badly wanted this little squirrel to live.

It paced back and forth on a ledge. The fire crept closer. Finally, his fur started to smoke, then singe. There was nowhere to go. Or was there?

The squirrel, now beginning to catch fully on fire, backed up. To the many cheers of the emergency responders below, he took a running start and leapt through a wall of flames Superman-style.

He fell several stories....straight into a swimming pool below. The cops grabbed a net, fished him out and laid him on the pavement.

The squirrel didn't move for several minutes. Then, after regaining some strength, he ran off, apparently unhurt. And the Aurora Police Department smiled and laughed and breathed a sigh of relief.

It might sound silly, or stupid even, to feel happy about saving an animal after such a human bloodbath. Yet it meant something to the men and women who deal with evil firsthand. "It was absolutely hilarious how that little squirrel did that," Cody told me, "and it was even better how a bunch of cops that had dealt with such a tragedy the night before were able to feel good about pulling a little squirrel out of a pool."

I know there have been many miracles surrounding the Aurora massacre (including a precious baby making it to his birthday), so maybe this one doesn't sound like much.  But I think God knew Aurora's firefighters, paramedics and cops like Cody needed it.

No, one saved squirrel doesn't bring back a dozen people. It doesn't lighten the anguish that so many families will forever carry, nor does it erase the memories that brave souls like Cody and his partner will replay in their brains for years.

God cares about people. He cares when we hurt, and his heart breaks when we cry. Yes, he knew that the terrible night  was going to happen, and yes, he could have stopped it. For some reason we may never know, he permitted it happen.

I don't have all the answers as to why. Evil reigns and bad things happen to good people.

Like that exhausted squirrel, the survivors and families may need to lay low for a while, even feel paralyzed by grief. But Aurora (not Batman!) will rise again and dash back into their "wild, precious lives" as poet Mary Oliver says. Eventually.

Just 2 days after the shooting, Cody, his pregnant wife Ashley and their daughter Mikayla stood in church and sang with the congregation.

Greater things have yet to come

And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here.

In Columbine, Springfield and Fort Hood.

And in Aurora.