AURORA, Colo. — Some recited the names of the dead. Some did good deeds for their neighbors. Some practiced yoga, walked through nature or simply talked. And two got married.
On Saturday, Coloradans 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 across the rolling plains east of Denver.
Twelve people died, including a 6-year-old girl. Seventy were hurt, some of them paralyzed. Countless others inside and outside the theater that night 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 the dead were read. A bell tolled after each. A high school choir sang “Amazing Grace.”
“One year ago, the peace of our community was shattered. We are still seeking justice,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said. “It is important for us to remember that one senseless act does not, cannot and will not define us as a community. This is a story of resilience, not just of Aurora but of humankind.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) told the crowd that many people still struggle with unanswered questions. “I know I do,” Hickenlooper said.
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.” Afterward, residents volunteered for projects — tending a community garden, sorting food bank donations, donating blood.
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 prayed for the couple and for those still grieving.
“This time is both happy and sacred,” McClendon said.
James Holmes, accused of the shooting, was arrested outside the theater in the aftermath of the violence. 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.
On Friday and Saturday, volunteers read the names of more than 2,500 people killed in gun-related violence in the United States since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December. The event was sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, contending that the event politicized a tragedy to promote gun control, held a counter-rally nearby.
After the official Aurora ceremony, some people had their photo taken with Police Chief Dan Oates, whose department won praise for its response a year ago. “It was a searing event for the police department as well as the whole community,” Oates said. But he added that many officers are moving on from the trauma.