Aurora officers showed up at the makeshift memorial and were welcomed by the crowd. Photos Dale Stockton
Support for law enforcement was evident. This tragedy reminded everyone that there really is evil in the world and the police are there to protect society.
The theater was surrounded by crime scene tape, a large fence serving as a visual barrier and officers forming a loose perimeter.
Remembrance balloons were released from the memorial and floated towards the theater and then into the sky.
A makeshift memorial across the street from the site of the shootings drew hundreds of well wishers.
A woman and her daughter stopped to leave a note on one of many large poster boards that were filled with comments from those who had visited the memorial.
The feeling as I drove into Aurora is hard to describe. Aurora has been recognized as an all-American city and with good reason—it truly is a great place. It’s a beautiful town and the day was as gorgeous as any you might ever see, including bright blue skies filled with puffy clouds. I drove around the town for a long time, just taking it in but the whole time sobered by the knowledge of what had happened here. There was a real contrast between examples of “life goes on” and remembering those who had died; some stores posted signs of their latest sale while others displayed expressions of sorrow.
When I got near the Century 16 Theater, site of the shootings, I was surprised by its proximity to the police department. It’s less than half a mile away and it’s right across the parking lot from one of the busiest malls in the Denver area. How could this have happened here? Why did this happen here? None of it made any sense whatsoever.
Across the street from the theater a makeshift memorial was attracting a steady stream of people who just wanted to somehow touch those who had been victimized by the tragic mass shooting. There were so many people that many were parking 2–3 blocks away. Twelve white crosses, one for each person who lost their life, had been placed on a busy corner and the memorial had just continued to grow with candles, flowers, stuffed animals and large note cards. There were so many flowers and mementos that the crosses could barely be seen. Massive poster boards were on every corner along with dedicated markers so that people could write a remembrance message. Somehow it made sense but at the same time it didn’t. There were tears, hugs and stunned looks. Couples held hands. Parents kept their children really close. Aurora officers showed up, not because there was a problem but because they wanted to demonstrate their respect. They were quickly welcomed by the crowd. The general sentiment seemed to be a search for why and what’s the real meaning here. No one, including me, had that answer.
A large group of motorcycle riders with patches proclaiming “Bikers for Christ” gathered and prayed before releasing remembrance balloons. The balloons drifted away from the memorial area, across the street and over the top of the theater before ascending into the sky. It was almost as if the whole thing had followed a perfect script.
I walked around the theater. It’s huge and was surrounded by a large fence that served as a visual barrier and crime scene tape. A couple of Aurora PD cars were in place and officers maintained a basic perimeter as the theater continued to be an active crime scene. I thought about the owners of the theater, the employees and the tremendous financial impact that they must be experiencing. What would be the future of this business? The huge parking lot was empty and the 16 screen theater seemed stark and cold, empty except for the coming and goings of police personnel. Behind me, a beautiful sunset played out in magnificent fashion, an incredible contrast to the large expanse of grey pavement and crime tape.
Why did I go? Because I felt that I had to. I wanted to honor the innocent victims. I wanted to pay respect to the fantastic first responders who did such a superb job. As I left, I felt such a deep sense of loss for this city that will long be remembered for something so very terrible.
The lesson of Aurora is this: There’s true evil in this world and society depends on LEOs to stand in the gap for them. Remember: Next time you’re feeling a little weary or unappreciated, you’re doing an honorable job and you’re the only hope that stands between the good people and the evil that tries to hurt them.