Coloradans embraced ways to heal Saturday as they marked the anniversary of the Aurora movie theater massacre with a city-sponsored “Day of Remembrance.”
It was one year ago that a gunman opened fire into a packed midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” The rampage lasted less than two minutes but left deep wounds that still ache in Aurora, Colorado’s third-largest city which spreads out across the rolling plains on Denver’s eastern side.
Twelve people died, including a 6-year-old girl. Seventy were hurt, some of them paralyzed. Countless others inside the theater and out bear the invisible wounds of emotional trauma.
Parents, siblings and survivors of those slain attended a morning ceremony of prayer, song and remembrance outside Aurora’s city hall.
Several hundred people — including police, fire personnel and members of Colorado’s congressional delegation — bowed their heads as the names of dead were read. A small bell tolled after each. The Hinkley High School choir sang “Amazing Grace.”
“One year ago, the peace of our community was shattered,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said. “We are still seeking justice.”
“It is important for us to remember that one senseless act does not, cannot and will not define us as a community,” Hogan added. “This is a story of resilience, not just of Aurora but of humankind.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper told the crowd that many people still struggle with unanswered questions.
“I know I do,” Hickenlooper said.
Dr. Camilla Sasson, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado, struggled through tears as she recounted the efforts of police and medical personnel to save lives.
“It is absolutely a miracle that 58 people survived that night,” she said.
Mourners clutched white roses and, as the ceremony ended, laid them beneath a large wreath bearing the inscription, “In memory of those lost and those whose lives were forever changed.”
After the ceremony, residents volunteered for projects — tending a community garden, sorting food bank donations, donating blood. Spiritual and mental health counselors were available, along with art therapy projects and poetry readings.
Eugene Han and Kirstin Davis, both injured in the Aurora shooting, marked the anniversary Saturday afternoon by getting married — a union that turned July 20 into a celebration. Friends who also survived the shooting took part in the ceremony at Village East Baptist Church in Aurora as senior pastor Robert McClendon gave a prayer for the couple and for those still grieving.
“This time is both happy and sacred,” McLendon said.
Several hundred yards from City Hall, people visited 12 crosses erected near the cinema where the attack took place. James Holmes, accused of the shooting, was arrested outside the theater in the aftermath of the rampage.
Holmes has been charged with murder, attempted murder and a list other offenses. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.