THE AURORA SHOOT­ING: FIVE YEARS LATER

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Gra­ham Am­brose

Five years af­ter a mass shoot­ing at a movie theater left 12 people dead and 70 in­jured, about 80 people gath­ered for a can­dle­light vigil near Aurora’s City Hall, where they rem­i­nisced about vic­tims and thanked first re­spon­ders.

Five years af­ter a mass shoot­ing at a movie theater killed 12 people and wounded at least 70 others, about 80 people gath­ered for a can­dle­light vigil near Aurora’s city hall, where they rem­i­nisced about vic­tims and thanked first re­spon­ders.

The 90-minute cer­e­mony, or­ga­nized by the 7/20 Memo­rial Foun­da­tion, be­gan at 11:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day with an open fo­rum of speak­ers who shared mem­o­ries of loved ones af­fected by the tragedy that un­folded early on July 20, 2012.

“Alex Sul­li­van was the nicest guy you could have known,” Daniel Hansen told the crowd about his co-worker, who died cel­e­brat­ing his birth­day at a pre­miere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” “I’m happy to see ev­ery­one here tonight. You sup­port the fam­i­lies that lost their loved ones. We as a com­mu­nity will not for­sake you. We will rise.”

Around mid­night, the con­gre­ga­tion walked to­ward the site of the planned 7/20 Re­flec­tion Memo­rial Garden near Aurora’s city hall, where a speaker sys­tem am­pli­fied short speeches from fam­ily, friends and Aurora po­lice of­fi­cers who re­sponded to the distress call at the theater.

The speak­ers em­pha­sized hope and re­silience in the af­ter­math of tragedy.

Af­ter a solemn read­ing of the 12 vic­tims’ names at 12:16 a.m., the crowd ob­served a minute of si­lence around the mo­ment at which a lone gun­man be­gan shoot­ing into the crowded theater dur­ing a mid­night show­ing of the then-new Bat­man movie.

At 12:40 a.m., a pro­ces­sion of po­lice cars drove down East Alameda Drive. Of­fi­cers then parked and walked to white crosses set up near the city hall in trib­ute to the vic­tims.

“These were 12 amaz­ing, amaz­ing people,” said Kaile Wil­son of Aurora, a close friend of vic­tim Jessica Ghawi, an as­pir­ing sports­caster who avoided harm dur­ing a shoot­ing at a shop­ping mall in Toronto the month be­fore she was killed in Aurora. The two bonded over a shared love of hockey and of light-hearted Twit­ter feuds.

Wil­son said she’s re­minded of Ghawi ev­ery day when watch­ing the Colorado Avalanche or see­ing a breath­tak­ing turquoise sky that her friend would have loved.

“It’s an honor to keep her legacy alive,” Wil­son said. “Our com­mu­nity re­ally de­serves it.”

Though vig­ils hon­or­ing vic­tims of the 2012 shoot­ing have become an an­nual rite in Aurora, many said this year’s gather­ing car­ried spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance.

“It’s hard to be­lieve it’s been five years,” said Margie Kiepert, who at­tended the vigil with Ni­cole Bolt­ner, a friend from Colorado Com­mu­nity Church, where vic­tim Gor­don Cow­den reg­u­larly at­tended ser­vices.

Nei­ther woman had known any of the vic­tims, but they said they wanted to show sup­port for the com­mu­nity amid its grief.

“It’s im­por­tant that we tell the fam­i­lies that their loved ones have not been for­got­ten,” Kiepert said, “that we’re here for them, that we love them still and al­ways will.”

Gabriel Scarlett, The Den­ver Post

Dur­ing a can­dle­light vigil Wed­nes­day in Aurora, Michael McCabe takes a mo­ment at the memo­rial for Re­becca Wingo, his girl­friend who was shot and killed dur­ing the 2012 at­tack on an Aurora the­atre.

Gabriel Scarlett, The Den­ver Post

Lyliana Rick­abaugh takes part in a can­dle­light vigil Wed­nes­day night to com­mem­o­rate those lost in the 2012 at­tack, in­clud­ing Alex Sul­li­van.

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