I always feel saddened more when tragedy strikes as people are in the midst of a happy time, when there's an accident on a boating excursion or a heart attack at a birthday dinner. Maybe I'm wrong, but somehow it seems to deepen the loss. It's fun interrupted, marred.
The acts of James Holmes in Aurora seem more horrific today as the stories of the victims emerge, as they always do, putting faces on the calamity.
There were people together with high school friends for the first time in a while, people with other pals, people on dates.
Close to midnight
An air of excitement, energy and anticipation permeates midnight showings of Hollywood blockbusters. It's a chance to see a long-awaited film early, a chance to break your usual routine and a chance to participate in the carnival a little.
Just before I left Texas, I met some friends for The Avengers opening. We managed to find each other in the lobby as other friends texted they were grabbing seats in different theaters in the multiplex.
We blazed a trail into an already packed house of college kids and other geeks, some sporting Thor headgear or homemade tees with superhero emblems drawn on in marker.
It was my last chance to see some of my friends, and seeing a hyped film may have been part of Hollywood marketing, but it also gave us a sense of occasion.
A sense of the occasion. So many quotes rush in at a moment like this. A silly one strikes me first on the heels of that last thought. A host at Millyways, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, says: "People like to get dressed up for the end of the universe. It gives them a sense of occasion."
This is not the end of the universe, but it strikes a significant blow to a piece of our culture, our shared dreaming, our good times.
We can never go to midnight showings again in quite the same way, with quite the same anticipation and energy. We'll never look at geeked out kids in makeshift costumes the same way again.
James Holmes robbed so many people of their special night, and he robbed people of their lives and struck all of us with a deeper horror. So did Jared Lee Loughner and countless others.
It's not the end of the universe, but it was another dark night for America.