AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – For the first time in more than 10 months, the family of Elijah McClain was able to gather peacefully with the community to celebrate his life. McClain’s sister, Naomi, told CBS4 the gathering at Utah Park in Aurora on Saturday evening was their first time being able to solely focus on the life Elijah lived.
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“It is giving some of us closure. At the same time, it is opening feelings for others,” Naomi McClain said.
Hundreds gathered Saturday night on the north lawn of Utah Park for an evening of food, music, unity and remembrance. McClain said the turnout, and intent of the event, brought joy to her and her mother.
“We are kind of sad it happened a little late. But, we are grateful that it is happening instead of being swept under the rug,” Naomi sai. “Events like this really speak about the kind of person Elijah is.”
Organizers, community leaders and family attorney Mari Newman were in attendance at the event and briefly spoke on their desires for more accountability from first responders. Many said Aurora police should, at minimum, fire the two officers who arrested Elijah McClain that still remain on the job. Others also called for accountability from Aurora Fire, who administered a high dosage of ketamine to McClain, and Falck Rocky Mountain ambulance services which provided the sedative.
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White flowers and candles were placed on a hill side at Utah Park, and were placed to spell out Elijah’s name.
While many cried, embraced each other and paid respects, others were seen dancing to music. Elijah’s mother and sister joined in on the dancing.
“There wasn’t a time in the beginning (Elijah’s mother could) send her son home,” said Lindsay Minter, an event organizer. “Elijah was dancing with his headphones when he was approached. That is why we can dance at a vigil like this, we can have fun. We can have love and celebrate, too. We can celebrate his life.”
As thousands of people across the world move to keep attention in McClain’s story afloat, many playing music in his memory, Naomi McClain said she was encouraged to see how much attention her brother was now getting.MORE NEWS: What Is Sweetwater Lake, A 'Hidden Gem' That's Soon-To-Be Colorado's 43rd State Park?
“I’m pretty sure he would have never imagined this many people coming out just to celebrate him,” Naomi said. “It means Elijah inspired a lot of people with his last moments.”