Imagine you were sitting in a crowded theater with your boyfriend, your little girl and your four-month-old baby when a gunman stormed in and began shooting. Now imagine your boyfriend dropped your tiny baby on the ground and ran for the exit because he was afraid the baby's cries would draw the attention of the gunman. If you managed to make it out of the theater with both your children in your arms, would you ever be able to forgive the man who left you all behind so he could save himself?
That is exactly the question that one young woman in Aurora, Colorado must answer. Patricia Legarreta and her kids survived the attack on the movie theater where they had gone to see the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." But it was not due to any heroics on the part of her boyfriend, Jamie Rohrs. He seemed to be struggling to justify his reaction when he spoke with the press after the shooting.
Some sort of explanation
"He's crying and they're going to come get me," Rohrs said of his four-month-old son. He left the baby lying on the floor in the dark, smoky theater while he ran for the door. "It just felt like the worst thing ever because my son's still in there. My girlfriend is still in there. I'm out here. Who leaves their child there?"
Rohrs not only made it out of the theater without his family, he got in his truck and drove quickly away from the theater to the other side of the mall before trying to call his wife on the phone. Perhaps he wasn't thinking about the sound of her ringing telephone drawing gunfire like he had been afraid the sounds of his crying baby would.
On Friday, the couple told CNN that they are now engaged to be married. Rohrs asked Legarreta to marry him at the hospital after the attack, and she said yes. Legarreta, who managed to get both her children to safety in spite of being wounded in the rampage, said, "Going through ten minutes of thinking he was dead and I would never see him again, you never want that feeling again."
One has to wonder if she will feel the same way after the shock wears off and she comes to terms with the fact that her new fiancé put his own safety above that of their baby. Rohrs has to hope that she has an enormous capacity to understand and forgive.
Echoes of George Costanza
You may remember the "Seinfeld" episode where George Costanza knocked down kids and an elderly woman when he tried to escape a small kitchen fire at the birthday party of his girlfriend's son. George was mocked, ridiculed and his girlfriend dumped him. That was funny because the danger was insignificant and, of course, because it was George.
Everyone wants to believe they would behave better in a real emergency. You don't know until it happens. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live with the knowledge that you behaved in a cowardly way and left your family to fend for themselves. No one really wants to believe they would act like George Costanza.
I hope that the whole Rohrs-Legarreta family takes advantage of the counseling that will surely be offered to the survivors of the brutal attack. Rohrs is not really the bad guy in this story. The gunman is clearly the bad guy. But Rohrs and his family will have a lot of emotions to work through as they begin to recover from this ordeal.
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