Anderson Cooper was in Aurora, CO tonight, interviewing the families of the shooting victims. I was particularly struck by the interview with the father of one of the shooting victims. Alex Teves, 24, was killed in the shooting. Mr. Teves described his son in the most loving terms imaginable, but also threw down the gauntlet to CNN and the other news agencies.
Mr. Teves challenged the media to stop using the suspect’s name and only refer to the person as “a coward,” so that we don’t reward murder with infamy. Instead, Mr. Teves, continued, he hoped that more focus would be directed toward the victims and their families. He told Anderson that in the last few days, he had asked people whether they remembered the names of the victims from the 2011 Arizona shooting. Other than Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, no one could remember another victim’s name. Everyone remembered the trigger man.
While the world waits for answers regarding the coward’s motives, I think Mr. Teves has a point. We remember what we hear, see, and read, and the more we hear, see, and read something, the more we remember it. If the balance of reporting about the Aurora tragedy tilts toward the coward, then that’s what we remember. We shouldn’t forget those who were lost.
As I was listening to Mr. Teves plea, I started to remember “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” by Thornton Wilder. I read the book 20+ years ago in high school. The novel was published in 1927 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1928. The fictional story depicts the lives of several people who were lost in the collapse of a rope bridge in Lima, Peru at Noon of Friday, July 20, 1714. From different walks of life, the characters died together when a bridge collapsed.
The people weren’t real, but there was something about Wilder’s novel that never let me forget it. The parallels with real life are uncanny. For brief moments of time, we all cross paths with strangers everyday. When tragedy strikes in those moments, the veil of anonymity lifts. Strangers suddenly become part of a shared story.
CNN followed the Teves interview with experts on past shooters. One had written a book. As the book cover flashed across the screen, I wondered if anyone had written a book on the victims. I did a quick search on the Columbine and Arizona shootings on Amazon. I discovered six titles, but each title seemed to focus on the shooter, or the politics around gun control. I didn’t find any books about the victims.
I wonder if the Big-6 publishers heard Mr. Teves’ challenge to CNN, for I think he was speaking to them too. Enough with the books about the shooter psychopaths. It would be easy enough to have a professional writer interview a dozen families in Aurora and write a book. The victims deserve a memoir. Let’s not forget them.