I live in Denver.
I work in Aurora.
I know exactly where the Century 16 theater is located; I live approximately 8 miles from there.
When horrific scenes like this unfold as they did last night and this morning, it reminds us of how precious life is and how none of us can fully be protected at all times. It reminds us that there are people out there who are sick and need help.
There is a very interesting thing that happens mentally when violence occurs near you. For me, there was an unnerving feeling. This feeling was followed pretty quickly by a thought of “wow, who really is safe?” and “what can I do?”
What can I do?
There is a feeling of helplessness that washes over you when you see all the information coming in about the incident. I can remember the same feeling two other times in my life.
The first was September 11. Everyone has there stories about that day, and we all wanted to unite and do something to help our country. I was no different.
The second was less about one incident and more about a whole series of incidents. You see, one of my first jobs after I graduated college was working at a special education school. The school itself was really created to help children who were given the classification of being “severely emotionally disturbed.” These kids had many issues, but they were my kids. I was there to teach them and to help them; to protect them.
But, as I learned almost immediately, I could only protect “my kids” when they were with me. From 8am to 3pm these kids were under my protection and I gave them all that I could. However, after 3pm, many of these kids left my protection and entered into an environment that was anything but safe.
This was the second time in my life I felt utterly helpless.
I saw how poverty impacted families, how families impacted kids, and how kids impacted each other. I saw how a system that was in place to help was often under resourced and ill-equipped to manage the complexity of many of these families.
I heard stories.
I still hear some of those stories.
I saw fear.
I saw hope.
Why am I telling you all this on a website that is about healthcare? Because folks, if you think any of these events are unrelated, disconnected, or isolated, you are wrong. Everything comes back to our families, our systems, and our health. You cannot tease apart one from another, and attempts to do so will likely prove to be futile and ineffective.
I do what I do in healthcare because I believe that we can create a better system that can help those who need help the most. I believe that I can create a system that can be just as effective at prevention as it can at treatment. I believe I can reconnect what has been disconnected.
I believe we must.
So as we read the stories about the shooting, let’s not forget that it is never just one thing that leads a person to commit such horrific acts of violence.
What will you do in response to this event?
I know what I will do.
I will work harder.
I will work smarter.
I will be successful.
I will change the system.