The Aurora theatre where a shootout last year killed 12 people and injured dozens reopened yesterday. The occasion was marked by a sombre remembrance ceremony and a screening of the latest Hobbit film for survivors, reported a leading news agency.
“We as a community have not been defeated,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan told victims, officials and dozens of police officers and other first responders who filled half the theatre’s seats at the ceremony. “We are a community of survivors,” Hogan declared. “We will not let this tragedy define us.”
“It’s important for me to come here and sit in the same seat that I was sitting in. It’s all part of the healing process, I guess,” said Pierce O’Farrill, who was wounded three times in the shooting. O’Farrill walked to an exit door inside the theatre where he remembers the shooter emerging. “The last time I saw him (the gunman) was right here,” he said.
US authorities have charged James Holmes, a former neuroscience PhD student, with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, in the July 20 shooting at the former Century 16 now called the Century Aurora. A judge has ordered Holmes to stand trial, but he won’t enter a plea until March.
Families of several victims boycotted the reopening, as they were unhappy with theatre owner Cinemark on having failed to consult them about what should have happened to the theatre. They said Cinemark e-mailed them an invitation to Thursday’s reopening just two days after they struggled through Christmas without their loved ones.
Victims have filed at least three federal lawsuits against Cinemark Holdings Inc, alleging it should have provided security for the July 20 midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, and that the exit door used by the gunman to get his weapons and re-enter should have had an alarm.
In court papers, Cinemark says the tragedy was “unforeseeable and random”. “We certainly recognise all the different paths that people take to mourn, the different paths that people take to recover from unimaginable, incomprehensible loss,” Gov John Hickenlooper said at the ceremony. “Some wanted this theatre to reopen. Some didn’t. Certainly both answers are correct,” Hickenlooper said.
Number of Americans who have died at the end of a gun since the Sandy Hook school shooting