More than 4,000 miles and 457 days later, Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent ’13 is a changed man.
This past Friday, Rodriguez-Torrent, a recent graduate with a degree in East Asian studies, and his friend Stephen Barton pedaled up to the Golden Gate Bridge after leaving Virginia Beach, Va. for their cross-country bike trip. Their arrival in San Francisco marked the formal ending of a journey they began over a year earlier that took them to Aurora, Colo. for the Dark Knight Rises premier in July 2012.
“I was initiated into America’s gun culture the hard way: face-down in a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colo., covered in a friend’s blood,” writes Rodriguez-Torrent in an op-ed published after the shootings for the News. Twelve people were killed in the shooting, and 58 were injured.
Though Rodriguez-Torrent was not wounded in the massacre, Barton and another friend who had been with them sustained serious gun wounds, according to The Washington Post.
Yet in the face of such tragedy, Rodriguez-Torrent and Barton resolved to finish their ride. Almost a year after they began, they set out to finish the last leg of their journey, starting at the Century Aurora multiplex. While Rodriguez-Torrent told the News that the shooting didn’t significantly change how he and Barton approached the trip on a day-to-day basis, it did change how they “approached the trip as a whole.”
“This year, we rode with the dual purpose of finishing the trip for ourselves and also raising money for the three victims of the Aurora shooting with serious lifelong injuries,” Rodriguez-Torrent told the News. “We realized that that could have just as easily been one of us.”
According to The Post, both Rodriguez-Torrent and Barton have decided to change their career paths as a result of their experience. Last September, Barton put a Fulbright grant to Russia on hold in order to take on a full-time position at Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a nationwide coalition that pushes for stricter gun controls. Rodriguez-Torrent, who had previously been considering a job in corporate America, has decided that, for now, he wants to become a police officer in New Haven.
“Since the shooting, I have definitely become more aware of my desire for a career of service as opposed to just a career,” he says.
When asked about his favorite part of the trip, Rodriguez-Torrent said it was the people he met along the way. He described the variety of people he interacted with on his journey, including a master electrician, retired entrepreneur, physician and farmer. “And those are just the people who invited us into their homes,” he added.
Rodriguez-Torrent and Barton’s new website is RideforAurora.org.