You are just 23 years old, about to become a dad. Your wife, lovely and only 21, is about to give birth to your son any day now. You plan to call your son Hugo. You have dreams that you will be a stand up comic one day. You’ve done some open mics. You’re working toward your dreams. You can hardly wait for your baby to arrive. Life is good. Tonight, for one last night, you’ll go to a midnight movie première without a care, without having to think about arranging for a babysitter or calling home to check on the baby. It’s going to be like any other night, but it’s your last outing with your pregnant wife, so it’s a milestone in the arc of your life.
It’s not going to be the milestone anyone could have predicted.
You’re in the theatre, having some popcorn. The movie’s fun. Then, twenty minutes into The Dark Knight Rises, a man with a gun bursts through an exit door and throws a canister of some kind of gas. The shooting starts and for about 15 seconds that feels like forever, by the light of the movie screen, the silhouette of the man with the gun fires and fires and fires ninety shots into the scrambling, panicked, screaming crowd. Everything you took for granted — what everyone took for granted — is turning upside down and disappearing. The nightmare gets worse. The light from the screen is gone and you’re lost in darkness. There is a dim light by the exit at the rear of the theatre. Do you cover your wife and baby and, in urgent whispers, beg her to play dead? Do you grab her hand and make a desperate run for the exit? No one knows what to do. There is only screaming, agony and gunfire. Help is coming. You don’t know it, but brave police officers are rushing to stop the chaos and help you. They will be on the crime scene, your battleground, within an amazing 90 seconds. Meanwhile, your mind is on a loop: This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. Wake up!
Blind and shaking, you whisper to your wife everything will be okay.
You hear a roar in the darkness and a giant fist has crushed your face, your head, smacking you to the sticky floor. For all it describes, pain is such a tiny, inadequate word. Your last thought is of your wife and child and all the years you won’t have together. Your hopes and dreams are ashes at the whim of a crazy person with an assault rifle and a shotgun. The world fades to black. The man will be arrested. Ambulances will be called and paramedics, urgent and sure, will be here soon. But it’s too late for you.
Almost. You’re still here, but lost to darkness.
You are Caleb Medley. You’re lying on a ICU bed in a medically induced coma and you’ll be in the netherworld between waking and dying for at least a week. Maybe two. You hear sounds through a fog. The disembodied voices of loved ones reach down to you from a far, high place. They whisper everything will be okay, but you’ve got to get better. You’ve been shot in the eye, but the doctors are hopeful you will live. Live, please live, because your newborn son is waiting in his mother’s arms. What you don’t know yet is that your medical bills will rocket up to between one and two million dollars. There are operations ahead. Rehab therapy will be hard. There will be bills for expensive drugs. You will lose work and time. You’ve missed the birth of your son.
But baby Hugo will have his father.
What you don’t know yet is that we are watching in horror. You don’t have insurance to help with your recovery, but that doesn’t mean your life is over before your dreams have a chance to take flight. We are sitting at our computers and watching television and we are thinking about you. We’re talking about you and we’re worried. We’re shocked because, though we like to think we are powerful, this could have happened to any one of us or our loved ones. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and no one should have to pay for that forever. We know what we have to do. The human family is answering the call. We are telling others through social media, our blogs, our friends and our neighbors. We’re picking up our phones and gathering our forces. One madman can diminish us all in a sick act of violence, but working together, we can elevate everyone once more with our compassion. Humanity survives every insult and injury because of our compassion.
The SOS, your call for assistance, is spreading.
We will help in whatever way we can. You haven’t asked. You’re still in the netherworld, clawing your way back to us from the darkness, but we know what to do. We’re spreading the word and gathering money to help you and your family get past this tragedy. Sleep, Caleb. Rest. Your life is not over. You, your wife and your son will have a new beginning. We’re coming as fast as we can. Help is on the way. We, too, are brave, urgent and sure.
We may not have much to give, but we have great numbers on our side. We are an army filled with compassion, so every donation, even a dollar, helps.
Thank you for coming to Caleb’s rescue.
(Need to know more? Check the links below.)
- Shooting Victim Gives Birth While Husband Fights For Life (huffingtonpost.com)
- Aurora Shooting Victim Uninsured (drudge.com)
- Katie and Caleb Medley: Woman caught up in Dark Knight shooting goes into labour as her husband fights for life (dailymail.co.uk)
- Woman Who Escaped Theater Shooting Giving Birth (abcnews.go.com)
- Prayer vigil for Caleb Medley (krdo.com)
- Aurora shooting victim could face $2M medical bill (cbsnews.com)