Veronica Moser-Sullivan is wildly licking an ice cream waffle cone, head slightly tilted back as if to catch any drip of the cool treat from escaping onto her yellow sundress. With her eyes expressing an impish playfulness for the camera, Veronica is sporting a couple of missing teeth, just like millions of six-year-olds around our planet.
But in my photo of Veronica’s photo, a Colorado Rockies hat is resting on her head. A half-deflated Mylar® balloon inscribed with “fly with the angels. . . .” blocks the view of Veronica’s ice cream cone. In front of the balloon, Mickey Mouse and a pink bear lean shoulder to shoulder. Crumbly dead roses rest at their feet.
On July 20, 2012, just after midnight, Veronica was killed in the agitated darkness of the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colo. Her mother, Ashley Moser, thought she was taking her daughter to a cartoon version of Batman. When James Holmes started unleashing his ammo tirade, Ashley tried to rush Veronica out of the theater, but was shot in the chest and fell onto lifeless Veronica. Hospitalized for months, Ashley suffered a miscarriage. The massacre that killed twelve and injured seventy others, left the grieving mother paralyzed with a bullet permanently lodged in her lower spine. The lone gunman robbed Ashley of two children.
How cruel. How sad. A cruel-sad enforcer feels like it’s slithering into every crevice of our world. Baton Rouge. Nice. Dallas. Istanbul. Paris. Orlando. Kabul. New York City. Rogue assailants to mastermind factions are targeting the lifeblood of humanity—kindness, decency, trust, community. But we must not cave to the unthinkable acts of those who hearts are blackened by paranoia, bitterness, and revenge. Evil is a reality but not the final reality. There is and will be more to the story. Irish statesman Edmund Burke is known for his words that still resound through the ages: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Nothing is cowering in fear when we don’t want to make waves. Nothing is not speaking up when we encounter bullying. Nothing is choosing apathy and absence on election day. Nothing is bemoaning instead of believing we can make a difference.
Veronica’s seven-year-old second cousin Aubrey refused to “do nothing” after losing her buddy. Aubrey started a lemonade stand to raise money for an Aurora community memorial garden to honor those who lost their lives in the 2012 shooting. When Veronica grew up, she wanted to be a police officer. In a special commissioning ceremony in September 2015, the ice cream-loving grade-schooler got her wish.
“We wanted to give this little angel her own badge in hopes that her spirit will watch over the Aurora Police Department,” explained Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz.
As crazed and senseless and horrifying as these tragedies are in our world—good does triumph over evil. The unthinkable becomes a tribute to the fallen. Fear fades as our remarkable resolve teaches us to rise again and choose love over retaliation.
And as we do, more little girls like Veronica can dream and some day pledge these words on behalf of all of us:
On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.