Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fear Itself, and Overwhelming Panic

Two former high school buddies and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises this past Sunday evening. I do not know how Doug and Tim felt entering the theater, there was no discussion of it, but there was a sense of vulnerable trepidation on my part. As we chatted and waited for the movie to begin, I took periodical note – as I often do wherever I am – of our surroundings. Like the iconic Batman, I prefer to observe whenever possible from on high and in the shadows, figuratively speaking, with everything laid before me rather than prone with my back turned and head on a swivel. It is an internal action/reaction mechanism, as one cannot know what has changed about their environment if one never notices its distinctiveness in the first place. I do this not out of paranoia, but just to have awareness that I feel a lot of people lack when in unfamiliar environs.

As the theater darkened and the movie began, my anxiety slightly increased. Not to the point of distraction, simply a disquieted elevated alert for any unusual activity. I watched the exit door, and people – including staff, who occasionally stood vigil checking the theater – leaving and re-entering the main one. After every action sequence, I found myself scanning the room. Why did I do this? Did I have a plan if, god forbid, a copycat murderous psychopath tried something similar to the events in Aurora, Colorado? I inventoried what we had on us for defense:  full sodas that could be thrown as distractions (probably futilely, and less usable as the movie progressed), belts that could be used as whips (granting being within range, and as long as our shorts did not fall down) and sets of keys that could slightly impale (if flesh wounds counted for anything). Handling these items with precision as we immediately sprang into action – coupled by decades of knowledge on each other’s judgments and reactions, mostly from adolescent nocturnal activities involving toilet paper and bottle rockets – we would not be victims.

At least, that is what I told myself as we sat and watched the movie.

Truth is you never know what you would do in a situation until it is upon you. I am certain similar thoughts as mine entered the minds of patrons in attendance at the Century Theatre in Aurora once the chaos erupted. Stories of survivors echo this belief, with several members of the audience heroically acting without hesitation to screen and protect others – some being strangers – at the cost of their own lives. Batman comics and Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, particularly in The Dark Knight Rises, epitomize the difficulty, but not impossibility, in fighting back when the wicked and depraved who seek to do harm, without a care for the law, are the only ones with the arsenal or a plan. As Alfred told Bruce, some people just want to see the world burn. Violence may beget violence, but only if there are no means – or no one – to counter such evil to its ultimate demise. You have to try in the face of the odds, or the fear can overwhelm in a panic.

That is why it was important to be at the theater, so that a murderous psychopath did not win in disrupting our daily lives. More so that the innocent lives taken and forever scarred in tragedy are remembered.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

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