July 20

Several of my dearest friends over the last few decades have celebrated July 20 as their birthday. I always thought it was pretty cool because it’s also the same day as the moon landing (or the moon landing hoax – if that’s what you believe, or the day that Forrest Gump played a mad game of table tennis – review the movie if you’ve forgotten.) But it seems like people who have today as their birthday are compatible with being my BFF for a small period of time. I’ve always liked July 20th.

There are certain dates that seem to attract a lot of attention. September 11, of course. April 20 (Columbine, Hitler’s bday AND my first ex-husband’s birthday), and now, July 20th. Not just for the moon landing or the fact that many of my former BFF’s celebrate their birthday today, but for the unfathomable event that happened in 2012.

Last year on this date, my children and I decided to fulfill one of the items on our “Summer of Fun” list: attend a movie in our pajamas. I remember writing on Facebook, “I just bought tickets to the midnight showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises'” And, of course, underneath my post it stated “Aurora, Colorado” as my location, because, well, that’s where I live.

We put on our pj’s and headed to the theater. About an hour into the movie, Ben and Madeline were both snoozing. My phone was blowing up. I looked at it to see what was going on and found a message from my friend Bobbi in Ohio asking if we were okay. Well, sure. We were okay. Then I read something unbelievable. She texted that someone in Aurora at a midnight showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ had just shot up the theater. She just wanted to make sure we were alive. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and tried to see if I could find anything online. There was limited information at that point. I agonizingly sat through (as the kids snoozed through) the rest of the movie. As we were leaving, some people were talking about the news as well. I grabbed Ben and Madeline’s hands and booked it out of there. When we stepped outside, there were police officers swarming the entrance. I guess at that point they were unsure if it was going to be a serial thing or not. We all but ran to the van and high-tailed it home.

Of course, there was no sleep to be had because my phone was on fire. People calling to check in. People crying as soon as I picked up the phone. Family stressing about the unthinkable. As the kids slept, I watched the news. The horrifying news that someone had killed several people just a few miles down the road from us. That theater would have been third on our list had we not been able to get in at Southlands or Arapahoe Crossing. Fortunately, our chosen theater did not sell out and we were able to stay close to home.

Sometimes I think what I would have done had that been the theater we were in. Pushing my children to the ground and covering them from gunfire while wearing my stupid polka-dotted pajamas. Then charging the murderer and ripping him apart with my bare hands – while wearing my stupid polka-dotted pajamas. And then being interviewed on the news as a hero for my bravery – while wearing my stupid polka-dotted pajamas. But it could have been worse. I could have died wearing those stupid polka-dotted pajamas. Talk about humiliating. Nothing like getting murdered while wearing a less than flattering outfit.

You know I’m NOT making light of this. It was a very sobering evening. Shocking. Horrifying. It just proves that nobody knows when their time is up. Who would ever think that they’d be murdered in a movie theater? But my weird brain reminds me of the advice that nearly every mother gives: always make sure you’re wearing clean underwear. I, personally, have never given that advice because if something scary happens, you’re going to soil them anyway, and your rescuer will never be the wiser.

So, today I’m thinking of all the people who lost their lives while trying to watch a Batman movie. And grateful for all the real-live “Batmen” rescuers who went into that scenario having no idea what to expect. And the police who were waiting outside for me and my children to make sure we were safe. And, of course, so grateful that we were not at Century 16. We were alive, thank God.

I’ve since retired those stupid polka-dotted pajamas for something more flattering, but I think I’ll resist wearing my PJ’s anywhere else. Ever. Just in case.

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