My home town has an image problem. Growing up I was quick to point out that even though my address is in the city, I lived the the unincorporated county. Even though it is one of many suburbs, it has never been one with a good reputation. Drugs and gangs are the main offense. It is a big town and not all of it is bad. My hometown's reputation was mostly known by others in the state, until recently.
We were in Oregon with my parents on July 20th. We had stopped to fill up for gas when the attendant (there isn't self-service in Oregon) mentioned there had been a shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I can't say if he mentioned how many were killed. Near where I grew up and where my parents has just moved from is a theater. It is within the city limits. It is also less than a 1/2 mile from where my best friend since the 6th grade lives. We looked for a newspaper, but it wasn't in the morning paper. We don't have smart phones and we were headed to a National Park. All day I worried that someone I knew was in that theater. We worried that it was the theater down the street, knowing that there are many in Aurora.
When we finally made it home and learned the details I was relieved to learn that it was not the theater down the street but one closer to downtown Denver. (When the names of the victims were released I didn't know any of them. My brother did go to school with one though.) It was the theater that my high school boyfriend worked in as a manager. The one that I had attended many late night showings of new movies. I learned that this tragedy happened way too close to home.
As I got my haircut yesterday I was talking to my (new) hairdresser. She asked where I grew up and I replied, Aurora. I knew what would pop up next in conversation. My hometown is no longer known for drugs and gangs but a mass murder. She asked if it was true what the police were saying about the area. Was it really that safe? This was hard to answer.
Growing up the Aurora Mall was the only mall around. We would go there fairly regularly. As time went on the mall and the surrounding area has changed. During my high school years I remember my mom talking about trips to the mall and how uncomfortable she felt. It wasn't really some place you would go late at night. I don't think there is a place where you could expect an event like this to happen. This is a result of a person who needs help and unfortunately people like this exist everywhere.
I still will defend my hometown. I have nothing but great memories growing up in Aurora, Colorado. (Although I really didn't LIVE in the city limits.) It isn't a bad place to live. There are amazing and wonderful people who live there. One person should not be able to stigmatize the entire community.