I first visited Colorado just after Columbine was shot up by those two guys. You know the ones — bent on eternal fame? Dylan something?
“Yeah, we’re pretty weirded out by it. Not like this place at all.” said my friend-at-the-time after he picked me up at the airport. We drove past the nice old houses around the Capitol Hill section of Denver, admiring the gentility of our surroundings. Denver seemed so mellow, especially compared to Phoenix. In Phoenix, it seemed that people were always getting shot in traffic disputes. But not in Denver, and even less in other parts of Colorado. It seemed as mellow as my friend. He embodied the spirit of the place.
He later went on to beat the crap out of his wife and kids and get thrown in jail.
Shortly after my then-new wife and I moved to the mountains of Colorado, I was standing on the balcony of my Waterloo, the kid’s consignment store. I was taking in the mountain air. What a beautiful place! So nice that we moved out of the city and away from all that crime and decay.
And then I heard the sirens–dozens of them. At first it was just Jefferson County Sheriffs’ cars and local fire and rescue. I heard a few helicopters overhead. Then Colorado State Patrol. Then suburban cops from Morrison, Lakewood, and Littleton. Then unmarked cars that looked like FBI standard-issue. All were doing something close to the triple-digits westbound along US285 as their sirens wailed. Then the media trucks with their uplink antennas at the ready blasted by.
A drifter had wandered around the halls of the local high school unquestioned for 45 minutes before walking into one classroom and taking the kids and teacher hostage. The Park County Sheriff tried blasting in through a neighboring wall in a surprise attack, but before he take him down the kidnapper shot a few kids, killing one. Her last message text message to her family was “I luv you guys”.
In my years spent in Colorado that followed, it was rare for a year to pass without some random act of violence somewhere in Colorado, usually a mass shooting. There were even shootings in churches and workplaces.
It occurred to me that this essentially American trait we have of moving somewhere to get away from it all was in itself rotten and self-defeating. It’s like we could try to swim away from the shit floating in the water to get to some beautiful island, but the shit would always follow in our wake. It always did. Then we were guilty in some way of spreading shit.
My ex- tried to get me interested in becoming couple-friends with some nice people she had met at Bible study. The husband was a high school music teacher. He seemed OK. Then the day after our first meeting, he was arrested on nine counts of forcible sodomy with a minor. It had been going on for a while.
I had more-or-less moved back to Phoenix when the Aurora theatre shootings happened. By then I was almost — though not quite — shrugging such things off.
On the day I finally sold my house there was yet another school shooting. “Wrong place, wrong time” said the authorities in response to another beautiful 17 year old girl getting shot and killed.
And though that was an insanely, incredibly stupid comment (because after all, she wasn’t setting up a bake sale in Compton during the Rodney King riots. That would be a good example of “wrong place, wrong time”. A girl in school studying during normal classes is in the right place at the right time. Important distinction) in another way I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Colorado was the “wrong place, wrong time” for me, from beginning to finish.