Aurora, CO — The Aurora theater shooting was remembered on Saturday, exactly one year after a masked gunman entered through the Exit Only door of Century 16 and fired, killing 12 people, wounding 70, and striking fear into the hearts of 300 more.
The shooting happened on July 20, 2012 during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. While the drama of that night is gone, the alleged shooter is behind bars, and hospital visits are over for the victims, the pain and scars of that night still remain.
The city of Aurora remembered the massacre on Saturday with a community gathering on the lawn of the Aurora Municipal Center, according to NBC News.
The ceremony included songs, prayers, and addresses by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. After that, volunteers spent the day working in the community, creating a memorial garden, building a healing wall, and sorting medical supplies for area hospitals.
But the Aurora theater shooting victims were in the minds and hearts of all. Killed in the rampage were: John Thomas Larimer, 27; Rebecca Wingo, 32; Alexander Sullivan, 27; Alexander J. (A.J.) Boik, 18; Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6; Jessica Ghawi, 24; Gordon Cowden, 51; Micayla Medek, 23; Matthew McQuinn, 27; Jonathan Blunk, 26; Jesse Childress, 29; and Alexander Teves, 24.
The midnight massacre lasted just two minutes, but it was enough to change the lives of hundreds of families. Parents, siblings, and survivors participated in remembrance ceremonies and spiritual and mental health counselors were made available for those who attended the ceremonies.
As the Aurora shooting anniversary was remembered, survivors recalled their feelings of fear and horror when they saw the gunman appear through the smoke of a tear gas canister.
Pierce O’Farril, who was sitting a few rose up on the right side of the theater, pointed to his scars as he recalled the scary moment he first saw the gunman. Yahoo! News reports that O’Farrill recalled, “My heart just kind of stopped. I can still in my head hear the [gunman's] footsteps. Everything went quiet for me.”
O’Farrill was hit in the chest and foot by a shotgun blast. The gunman also shot him with a.40-caliber pistol, shattering his left arm. The 29-year-old still has shotgun pellets in his chest and a bullet lodged in his arm.
While stories of survival were remembered, stories of heroes were also recalled, like that of John Larimer, who heroically protected his girlfriend, Julia Vijtsek, at the expense of his own life. ABC News notes that Vitjsek recalled:
“His first instinct was to grab my head, cover me, tell me to get down. He was kind of guiding me where to go. He looked up for a split second to kind of see what was going on and I think that’s when he was shot. He was holding on to me tight, and I could feel when he relaxed. I think that’s when he died.”
While the one year anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting was a time of remembrance and healing, it will likely take years before the victims of that night to fully recover.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]