AURORA | Friday night marked the seventh anniversary of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and the second year the community honored victims and their families with a vigil and procession near midnight.
“There is power in being together,” said Reid Hettich, who led the vigil. Hattich is the lead pastor at Mosaic Church in Aurora. “There is still anger and fear [from that night]. But it is lessened by being together.”
The vigil was at the 7/20 Memorial Garden on the grounds of Aurora city hall. The site was dedicated as a sculpture garden, dubbed “Ascentiate,” last year.
Gunman James Holmes shot dead 12 people July 20, 2012 and wounded about 70 others when he opened fire in a crowded Aurora theater premiering a Batman movie.
About 100 people attended the event, including many family member of victims and survivors of the attack.
On Thursday, Aurora Congressman Jason Crow took to the House floor to recognize the 12 victims who died in the shooting and their families, many of the which he said he’s gotten to know.
“Many have become stewards in our community and their example is an inspiration to us all. People like State Rep. Tom Sullivan who honors his son’s life by serving in the Colorado State Legislature and fighting for gun violence prevention,” Crow said in his speech. “Or Sandy and Lonnie Phillips who lost their daughter and have spent their days since advocating for survivors across the country. Today, my only wish is to tell them we haven’t forgotten.”
Crow said he fears that people have forgotten the massacre and the people that were effected.
“In the seven years since that day, little has changed. Our country is no safer,” he said, urging lawmakers to solve the problem of gun violence.
“We disagree about how to solve the problem, but we do agree there is a problem. There is a public health crisis in our country and it doesn’t matter if you live in a red or blue district,” he said. “ I stand here today committed to making a change, committed to showing families in our community that just because time has passed, our urgency to addressing gun violence has not.”
Theresa Hoover, chairwoman of the memorial foundation, said last year that the memorial itself is unique. During the long process to design the memorial, the intent was for it to never be a somber place but instead a place to celebrate life and remember those that were lost.
“We didn’t want it to be a place like a cemetery, where you have headstones,” said Hoover, whose son AJ Boik was one of the victims. “This is a place to go and just remember, remember the good and not remember why this is there. It’s not a typical memorial where we want it to be ‘poor us.’ We want it to be ‘look at us.’ The community was so amazing throughout the whole thing, the fire, the police, we all came together and everybody helped everybody else out and we need to celebrate that.”
State Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, whose son, Alex, was among the 12 killed that night, said this year was especially difficult because of his new role as a state lawmaker, who was the face of gun-control legislation passed this year.
He said balancing his official role as a lawmakers and community role as the voice of mass shooting victims, has been rewarding and taxing.
The reward, however, was progress on legislation that may prevent future victims.
Last year’s event drew hundreds of people who turned out for the dedication and in memorial dead and wounded.
“We would be honored to have the community join us in solidarity with other family members and survivors of 7/20/12 at our annual remembrance that continues to be a source of healing,” family members said on a post of the 7/20 Memorial Foundation’s Facebook page.
On Sunday, Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewery will launch a craft beer dedicated to the 7/20 foundation, Seven-Twenty Sunrise Peach Strawberry Hazy IPA.
Dry Dock will donate proceeds from beer sales at special events to the foundation. The launch event is slated for 11 AM – 2 PM at Dry Dock Brewing Co – South Dock, 15120 E. Hampden Ave.