When NHRA drivers woke up early Friday morning and turned on the TV or went on the internet they could not believe what they were seeing, hearing
Early Friday morning a gunman in body armor shot and killed 12 people and wounded 59 people at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in
Many of the 59 people who were injured were critically wounded, police said.
The tragedy that unfolded was hard for drivers to comprehend.
NHRA’s Mile-High Nationals began Friday and conclude Sunday at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison. Morrison is approximately 30 minutes from the Century 16 Movie Theaters at Aurora Town Center where the shootings took place. Aurora is a suburb less than 10 miles east of downtown Denver.
The suspect was identified as James Eagan Holmes, 24.
“It is very tragic to hear that somebody would do such a horrible thing like that to all those innocent people,” said Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Jr. “It’s scary. My guys and I actually talked about going to see the Batman movie over here and who knows if we would have gone and been at
that movie theater. It is pretty scary. You have to thank God and count our blessings that we are all still all right and say a lot of prayers. Who would think at a movie theater something like that would happen?”
Terry McMillen, who pilots the Amalie Oil Top Fuel entry, concurred with Arana Jr.
“To think that so many people were killed and so many people were injured and they just went out to enjoy the evening,” McMillen said. “It is so tragic. I guess it can happen to any of us at any time and any place. My guys happened to drive by there last night and saw the ambulances
and helicopters running to the scene of that. So many people lost their life for no reason at all. I wish there is something we could all do to stop that from happening. It is bigger than all of us. We are going to race here (at Bandimere) with heavy hearts this weekend. This is a tragedy and
something that seems to be occurring more and more often.”
Johnny Gray, who pilots the Service Central Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, was clearly upset by what unfolded in Aurora.
“It is a sad deal that the mentality of some people of the country we live in has turned to that,” said Gray, who lives in Artesia, N.M. “I’m a hunter
and an avid gun owner. I own guns and I believe in owning guns. I believe in that right. It is a shame that you take a miniscule amount of people in
the world that can get their hands on guns, and can harm the ability for someone such as myself to own firearms. That bothers me and my heart and
prayers go out to all the people that are involved in it and the tragedy that took place. I have two boys and they are married and I have three grand
kids by each one. I have six grand kids who could have very easily been in that theater. It seems like they have had more than their fair share of that
kind of stuff in this part of the country and I do not know why.”
The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting in Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting
spree killing 12 students and one teacher and injuring 24 others.
Andrew Hines, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, expressed how drag racing is secondary to what happened in Aurora.
“It puts everything in perspective,” Hines said. “What we do out here is definitely for fun. To have tragedy strike like that for no apparent reason
is just utterly devastating. I feel so bad for everybody who is involved in that thing. That is the first thing I saw this morning when I flipped the news
channel on when I woke up. Seeing 12 dead and 50 injured on those first reports just gives me chills right now talking about it. I do not understand
what would drive somebody to do something like that. It puts this weekend in a whole different perspective. We need to try and help raise awareness for
situations like that.”
Hines grew up in Trinidad, Colo., which is about three hours from Bandimere Speedway.
“I was in Trinidad, in school, when the whole Columbine shooting happened,” said Hines, who graduated from Trinidad High School in 2001. “We turned on the TV and saw what was happening at Columbine and it was indescribable. This is a total bad deal what happened in Aurora.
Hopefully we can help the people around Denver who are coming out to the races this weekend by putting on a good show for them. We want to dedicate this event to all the families out there.”
Scott Palmer, who runs a limited Top Fuel schedule, also was trying to digest the news coming out of Aurora.
“This makes you realize that this (drag racing) is not as important as other things in the world,” Palmer said. “There are people right now who have lost their family members and we are out here drag racing. We should all realize how lucky we are to be out here doing this. These people went out to have a
good time and to go watch a movie and some of them didn’t walk out. It is a terrible tragedy.”
Antron Brown, who drives the Matco Tools dragster for DSR, couldn’t believe the Aurora news when he was told by a media member Friday morning.
“That is just such a tough situation,” Brown said. “We are all human beings and it is just very heartfelt just for all the families that have to go through that kind of tragedy. You go to a place and watch a movie and hear something like that happened my heart goes out to all who were involved and for the people who were injured. We are going to keep them in our prayers. You never want to see something like that happen.”
Brown’s teammate Tony Schumacher took a moment to share his thoughts on the tragedy.
“As an American you can be afraid to walk outside any day, as you can see a movie theater, really?,” Schumacher said. “That’s the safest place in the
world watching a great movie with your kids. I get up in the morning and I drive the Army car and to eliminate any risks I would have to give that up
and that ain’t going to happen. I didn’t know about it (what happened in Aurora) until this morning and it is just absolutely appalling that someone
would do that. You can’t understand how someone could take lives of people they do not know for no reason.”
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