Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunrise in Aurora, Colorado

When I reflected on the shooting tragedy that took place during a Batman movie screening in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, it did not occur to me that I might go there one day. Especially one day relatively soon.

When Sunrise Elementary School in Aurora invited me in the fall of 2012 to do an author visit on 2/8/13, I was surprised and (as always) flattered and excited—but also a bit worried. 

I told my kind host, librarian Susie Isaac, that my latest book is about Batman and asked if, under the circumstances, it would be insensitive to bring it up during my presentation. Mind you, I am not one who shies away from having tough conversations when situations call for it, but this was different. I was not about to risk upsetting young people in a grieving town.

Susie was as cheerful as the name of her school. She assured me that I could speak freely. None of their students had been directly affected by the tragedy and the Batman connection to it, she said, did not taint their enthusiasm for the Dark Knight.

That dynamic alone would make for a memorable visit, but amplifying that, Susie went all out to pump up the kids for my arrival. I would say that she prepared more than any other school in recent memory.

Every school day for the month prior, she lobbed a trivia question about me to the kids.

She ran a contest for the students to design their own superheroes (complete with backstories) and decked out the library with their creative submissions.

And she shared my books with the kids, who then welcomed me with great gusto.

Before I presented, I was interviewed on the students morning news show. One student announced that there were no birthdays that day.

Oh, but there was. Bill Finger was born on 2/8. Adding even more poignancy, Bill Finger was born in Denver.

Speaking of poignancy...

Of course this visit had the same purpose as any I’ve done: motivate, educate, entertain. Yet as I was trying to deliver on those goals, I was grateful to be able to privately mourn strangers in their own community, strangers I may have been particularly drawn to because of the movie they were watching when their lives were senselessly cut short. It was a movie about a hero who shuns guns. (And adding another level of cruel irony to the Aurora tragedy, I learned that one of the teachers at Sunrise had been a student on that devastating day at Columbine.)

Thank you, Susie and the students of Aurora, for inviting me to experience a positive new Sunrise.


Richard said...

This is a very touching story, Marc. I hope it doesn't sound trite or glib when I say in all sincerity it gave me a bit of a lump in my throat.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thank you, Richard. No trace of glibness or triteness.

Susie Isaac said...

Thank you for your kind words about Sunrise - you were an inspirational speaker and a pleasure to spend the day with! One fifth grade teacher told me all of her students returned to the classroom talking about what they were going to do as adults. One student said he would become a graphic novelist, but when the teacher asked if he would give her his first comic he said, Actually, I think I'm going to send it to Marc Nobleman." Thanks for inspiring our students!!