AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Emergency responders made an emotional visit to the community memorial in Aurora on Wednesday, with many officers seeing the tribute the community has put together for the shooting victims for the first time.
Firefighters and police officers who responded to the shooting at the Century 16 theater on July 20 that left 12 dead and 58 wounded were in the group, along with Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates and members of the FBI. Many authorities who arrived at that chaotic scene provided life-saving medical assistance or drove victims directly to hospitals.
The shooting by a man police say is James Holmes, 24, took place during a midnight screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” and sent panicked people fleeing from the theater, some with gunshot wounds.
The authorities all wanted the public to know they are struggling with the difficult feelings in the wake of the shooting along with everyone else.
“We’re hurting so much for the families, but us as first responders it hurts so much because we’re paid to protect this community, and for something like this to happen in our community it’s incredibly emotional,” Aurora firefighter Chris Henderson said.
The group took part in a moment of silence Wednesday at the memorial, which includes flowers, candles, stuffed animals photos and crosses. There was also a prayer service led by chaplain of local police department.
After that officers mingled with the crowd, thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers. There were also many, many hugs, and plenty of tears.
“I can’t say enough about the amount of support that we hear and we from our community, and that’s what keeps us going,” said Aurora police officer Cassidee Carlson.
Harmony Johnson had just been released from the hospital after surviving the terrifying mass shooting and came to the memorial to pay her respects. She said she was glad to see the officers there.
“I think they were just trying to show to the community that they were hurting, too, and that their support was out there for us,” Johnson said.
The memorial is growing larger every day, and visitors aren’t just from Colorado. Some people are driving from states as far away as Texas, California and Florida.
“It’s always good to join together — to get together and join forces. They say there’s comfort in misery, but really this is about as miserable as it gets. So while you don’t want to see anyone else suffering, in a way it does help,” Henderson said.
Johnson felt she is speaking for everyone when she said “true heroes do come with badges, not with capes.”
Don’t miss a special hour long report on CBS4 on Friday at 4 p.m. titled “Movie Theater Tragedy: Remember, Honor Support” which will look back at the week following the Aurora shootings.