“In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.” Abraham Lincoln, May 25, 1861 in a letter of condolence to the parents of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth
I did not know Jessica Ghawi, Alex Teves, Alex Sullivan or any of the other nine victims murdered in the horrific July 20, 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” I do not know any of the 70 people who were injured that night and survived. But as an advocate for gun violence prevention, Jessica, Alex, Alex and many others have become my (forever young) friends. It is because of them that we work for a safer future so others are not sacrificed on America’s insane firearms alters.
The trial for the monster responsible for this all too familiar, American-centric, gun-related carnage is underway in Colorado and I find there is no way to accurately or compassionately convey my love to the survivors, their families, or the families of those murdered without sounding as if I can possibly understand their grief, pain, suffering, loss, anger… even this list seems somehow presumptuous. To those strong enough and compelled to attend the daily court proceedings, this list of presumptions must also include: the ability to sit in the same room with such a monster, knowing that he is attempting to “game” the jurisprudence of Colorado with his “superior” intellect, and the self-control and commitment to a civilized society not to throttle him when he lifts his veil of innocence whenever the jury is not in chambers. Cameras are everywhere.
It is, therefore, ironic that I find the most reflective and appropriate comments in the haunting words of one who would himself later become the victim of gun violence. In a letter dated Nov. 21, 1864, President Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a mother who it was believed had lost five sons in the Civil War. He wrote:
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
And so, with these borrowed words, please let the victims and their families know that I am thinking of them, grieve for them, honor their children and don’t presume to understand their pain. I haven’t the right words. Allow Lincoln’s to carry my comforts.