THE AURORA SHOOTING: FIVE YEARS LATER
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.”
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.
Lyliana Rickabaugh takes part in a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to commemorate those lost in the 2012 attack, including Alex Sullivan.