Looking Back: Theater Shooting and a Viral Letter

Two years ago, my city (Lafayette, LA) was subject to an act of terror. A man walked into a movie theater and opened fire, killing two young ladies. The other moviegoers and well-trained policeman were able to heroically diffuse the situation before there were more casualties.

As you might expect, my quaint little city (known as the happiest city in America) was in total shock. With a population of approximately 120,000 people, we didn’t consider ourselves a target for things such as this. The theater is one that almost everyone in the city has visited, included myself. I’m sure I’ve been in the exact room multiple times over the years.

Like most people in our area, I was appalled. I tried to channel those feelings, and how everyone else in this city felt by writing a brief letter entitled, “Dear Terror.” I posted it to Medium for some unknown reason and it became shockingly popular. It reached number 1 on Medium, was tweeted by Jonathan Lucroy (MLB baseball player from Lafayette), and began to gain traction amongst news outlets.

NBC News (the national version) reached out to me on Twitter and asked if I was interested in doing an interview for their website. While I considered this, other news outlets began to pick up on it and like to it. Our local news agencies posted it everywhere, international news outlets (as far as Australia) summarized and linked to it. It became wildly more popular than I could’ve ever imagined.

I decided to accept the NBC News offer for an interview and did it via email. Once they published the article, my little letter received tens of thousands of shares on social media1. A few people reached out to me to condemn my insensitivity towards the victims, but the vast majority of people thanked me for encapsulating an almost indescribable unity in our city.

I’ve written things in the past that have gotten large amounts of attention in the tech world, but never anything that was so widely (and quickly) recognized. It isn’t a great work of literature2 and had I spent more time on it, I feel it could’ve been better. It was a single draft written in ten minutes. It was from the heart and I meant every single word of it.

If you want to look back to that time, you can read it here.

  1. The statistics in the NBC article were at the time of the interview. They skyrocketed even higher afterward. 
  2. Although it was used as an example by a popular English literature Twitter account. 
Matt Langford @Mtt

Copyright 2018 Matt Langford