AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – In the hours following the Aurora theater shooting there was an outpouring of support. Thousands of people brought flowers, candles and messages of support to a field across from the theater.
One man drove all the way from Illinois to place 12 wooden crosses in remembrance of the 12 lives lost. The spontaneous outpouring of support stood for two months before the city of Aurora finally took it down. CBS4’s Jim Benemann sat down with Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan to ask when a permanent memorial will be built.
Every time Hogan looks out his office window he’s reminded of the events of July 20.
“It doesn’t go away, and particularly for me in this office, I look at the theater every day, so personally it doesn’t go away,” Hogan said.
In the days and weeks after the shootings, the mayor reassured shaken residents, consoled grieving families and pulled the community together.
“The vigil we had just 48 hours later, there were 10,000 people out there. People wanted to come together, people needed to come together.”
But a year later, the mayor says the wounds from the theater shooting are still too raw to start constructing a permanent memorial.
“It still isn’t time,” he said.
Every time there is a new headline the pain returns.
“We took a very conscious position that we weren’t going to do anything until the families decided that it’s time.”
The messages of hope, pain and sorrow were taken down and are now being stored in a city warehouse. The land where the remembrances stood will soon have a light rail line cutting through it. A city task force is currently looking at alternative sites..
“We are still not sure where or what or when; the time will come.”
Reopening the theater was a major step in the healing process.
“We wanted to ask the community what they thought and they clearly said ‘yes.’ The responses that we got were 75 percent – ‘open it.’ ”
Survivors and family members of some victims returned to the place where life changed forever.
Despite the progress, Hogan knows Aurora will always in some way be linked to the theater shooting. It’s a tragedy that could have happened anywhere.
“That’s one of the most difficult things to come to grips with.”
But tragedy is now the first thing that comes to mind when people say “Sandy Hook,” “Virginia Tech,” “Columbine” and “Aurora.”
“We have to be respectful of it, we have to remember it, but we cannot let it define who we are. We have too many things good things going on in this city.”
A memorial at Columbine took eight years to build. Hogan says we are likely to see a permanent memorial to the Aurora victims in the next two or three years.