Springs in the spotlight 

One moment, Colorado Springs relaxes on a typical Sunday in December, happily removed from the news, issues and troubles that fill our TV screens from the outside world.

The next moment, gunshots reverberate in a suburban parking lot. Then the sudden, incredible climax unfolds inside our city's largest house of worship. An armed security guard, realizing the danger to hundreds at New Life Church, draws her weapon and shoots repeatedly, until Matthew Murray crumples and then fires the final, fatal bullet.

Instantly, we're no longer watching news from afar. We're on center stage for the curious nation and world. We're the setting for the latest crazy story in a violent society, and the insatiable 24/7 media swoop in.

The outsiders actually never connected all the dots. They never fully grasped or exploited one fact. They didn't tell the world how frighteningly close this came to being one of the most horrific mass murders in American history.

It wasn't a secret. We learned Murray had more than 1,000 rounds in his backpack as he strolled into the church, tossing smoke bombs in hopes of creating panic and confusion. New Life senior pastor Brady Boyd insisted security guard Jeanne Assam saved perhaps hundreds of lives. If not for armed security ... who knows?

That chilling detail never gained much traction. Not with media obsessing on Murray's background, his earlier rampage in Arvada, comparisons with other church shootings, and the tragic reality of teen sisters Stephanie and Rachael Works being killed so senselessly.

Those hot lights of notoriety didn't last long. The shooter was dead; there was no dramatic manhunt. Half the Midwest was struck by an ice storm, and the story broke of CIA leaders destroying tapes of interrogations. Colorado Springs and New Life Church soon faded to the background.

That's how it is today. Doesn't matter how big a story is, or could have been. As the news value begins to recede, it becomes a local story again.

But we learn about ourselves amid these experiences. Some people and institutions rise to the moment. Others fall short. Let's recognize some from both sides.

Rev. Brady Boyd: Despite being at New Life only four months, Boyd handled himself admirably. His only major slip was referring to Assam as "Assami" at the Monday press conference. But for a good while, he was informing us and the world more than anybody. He was the first to say Murray did go inside the church, and that security was heightened because of what happened in Arvada.

Mayor Lionel Rivera: Added nothing at the first press conference and was flustered when media asked him to give his title and spell his name, on camera.

Jeanne Assam: She came across as the reluctant hero, refusing to capitalize on her instant fame (as a few others appeared to do).

Police Chief Richard Myers: He said Sunday night he knew of no connection to the Arvada incident, even as the two cities were working to establish just that. He admitted "dozens" of calls for police service around the city went unanswered after the shooting, a clear indication his department can't handle much else amid a single crisis. He praised his own people and Assam, yet she single-handedly stopped the threat. From there, police simply made sure the church was secure again. And nobody has explained why police waited nearly five hours before saying the shooter, or anyone, had been killed. Not sharing more information or answering questions on Sunday night was overly paranoid.

Local media: So many details made the TV stations look bad, such as misspelling Myers' last name, reporters stumbling on key facts, all the insensitive "Reporting live from New Life" intros, etc. Also, why did we have to find out so much from CNN, the Associated Press and the Denver Post? A CNN reporter and an AP photographer apparently were the only ones to go inside the church Monday, and the Post told us the most about Murray. And usually in such situations, national media interview local reporters, but not here. Read that any way you choose.

Already, the intense media glare is gone. The story remains, along with the sadness and grief, and some are left with lessons to be learned.

Because there always will be a next time for Colorado Springs on center stage. We just never know when.


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