Candlelight vigil brings tragedy-stricken community together

Darius Harvey of Aurora hugs Patty Almond at the prayer vigil just after learning that his friend was one of those killed in the Century 16 Theater shooting of July 20, 2012.  Darius is a student at Gateway High School in Aurora.       Photo by Melanie J. Rice ` mrice20@mscd.edu

On the evening of July 20, less than 24 hours after the Century 16 shooting, over 200 people gathered to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims. The vigil was held by Rep. Rhonda Fields, District 42.

While some attendees had personal connections with victims, others like Linda Colbert attended to show support for the community.

“There is no statement except that when a person is hurt, the entire community is hurt,” Colbert said.

Keane Abraham
Photo by Brian T. McGinn

Keane Abraham remembers how it felt to be shot as a soldier in Central Asia. Until a phone call early Friday morning, he never imagined that his niece would have to experience the same feeling, let alone while sitting in a movie theater.

“I have never cried so hard,” he said.

Abraham’s niece was among 71 moviegoers wounded when a masked gunman came in through the back door of Theater 9 at the Century 16 Theaters in Aurora and opened fire during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The shooting ended with ten people dead and 61 rushed to area hospitals, where two more victims died.

Jeannetta McCain brought her family to the vigil the keep in mind what might have been. Her teenage daughter recently attended the theater at the Aurora Town Center.

“What if he would have decided to go there a week ago instead of yesterday?” McCain asked. Later in the vigil, McCain’s daughter Aubrey and son Aaron held up a sign that read “Unity.”

For many, including couple Tyler Fernandez and Samantha Gifford, waiting for news was the hardest part. The couple knew that a friend had gone to the theater late Thursday night.

After trying to reach him for hours, he finally called, safe, and told them he had been in one of the other theaters when the shooting started.

“It was hours before we knew if he was okay,” Gifford said. “It was just crazy.”

Despite the events at the theater, most of the attendees at the vigil said that they would probably not change their movie-going habits.

“You have to choose not to live in fear,” said Gena Blessitt, a representative of 24/7 Lighthouse Ministries, an organization that works with the homeless. Her son had plans to attend the screening at the Century 16 in Aurora, but every show had sold out before he could purchase a ticket.

Blessitt’s statement was echoed by high school student Emily Paredes, a former classmate of wounded survivor Zack Golditch.

“I’ll still go out and see movies,” Paredes said. “You can’t let fear win.”

As the vigil came to a close, Abraham stood with a red candle held in a white foam cup. Despite the fact that his niece was shot in the back and suffered a collapsed lung, her prognosis is good. As it looks, she will be one of the survivors.

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Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko

Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko

Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko is The Metropolitan News Editor. She is majoring in convergent journalism and expects to graduate in 2014. After earning her degree, Kelli would like to profile cold cases with the hope her work can help solve them.
Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko

Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko is The Metropolitan News Editor. She is majoring in convergent journalism and expects to graduate in 2014. After earning her degree, Kelli would like to profile cold cases with the hope her work can help solve them.

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