AURORA, Colo. – A candlelight vigil and moment of silence marked the five-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting.
Survivors, family members, first responders and members of the community gathered in the park adjacent to City Hall to remember the lives lost on July 20, 2012.
The victims’ names were read at 12:38 a.m., which is when the shooting took place.
Twelve people and an unborn child were killed and 70 others were injured when a gunman walked into a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" and opened fire.
That gunman was sentenced to 12 life sentences plus more than 3,300 years in prison for the shooting.
Trying to stay positive
Family members told Denver7 that previous anniversaries re-opened old wounds.
They said this one, the fifth anniversary, may be a little different because it’s a milestone and because many families are trying hard to move forward.
“I still think about it every single day,” said Rena Medek, whose daughter, Micayla, died in the shooting, “but I know she’s in heaven know.”
Medek said time has eased some of the pain.
“I mean I can actually say her name without crying,” she said.
It’s the same for Heather Dearman, whose cousin, Ashley Moser, was paralyzed in the shooting. Ashley’s 6-year-old daughter, Veronica, was killed. So was Ashley’s unborn child.
“At first, it was such chaos and everyone was so angry and frustrated,” Dearman said. “The trial took a toll on everyone and some of the progress that was made then reversed.”
Now, Dearman said, many people are feeling stronger and are moving on with their lives. Working on the 7-20 Memorial is helping her heal.
“I think working on this memorial has helped me do that,” she said, “because I’ve met so many wonderful people who have shown great comfort and compassion for me and my family, especially Ashley.”
Dearman told Denver7 that everyone copes with their loss in their own way and heals within their own time frame.
Some, like Heather Bailey are still struggling.
“It’s already been five years and I just don’t feel like I’ve moved very much,” said Heather Bailey.
Bailey’s daughter, Kaylan, was at the theater watching the movie with Ashley and Veronica. She was injured by shrapnel and survived, but was badly shaken.
Bailey says Kaylan pulled away from her as a means of coping with the horror that she witnessed.
“It was hard not have my best little girl, not be my best little girl for several years,” Bailey said.
Now, the mother and daughter have worked through their emotional stress, but Bailey said she still experiences anxiety.
“I can’t stand the thought of her going to the last movie of the night,” she said, “but she’s 18 now and she’s going to do what she’s going to do.”
Theresa Hoover said the loss of her son, A.J. Boik, isn’t getting easier, but it has become more “normal.”
She smiles when remembering A.J. and the thing the teenager tried to get away with.
“He was the King of getting away with stuff,” Hoover said. “He knew that if he made me laugh, it was going to lessen the punishment. That’s how he rolled.”
Hoover told Denver7 that she’d call A.J. every day when he got home from school.
“I’d say, ‘Hi A.J.,’ and he’d say, ‘What up Momma?’ That was his thing. I was the hip mom and he was my cool kid.”
She said A.J.’s strength was bringing people together.
“He made friends with everyone,” she said.
Hoover said had the shooting not occurred, A.J. would have graduated from art school, would likely be teacher at Gateway High School and would be married with children.
She remembers telling him that she didn’t want grandkids until he graduated from college and was married.
“Now, I wish he wouldn’t have listened,” she said with a chuckle. “He didn’t listen to anything else I said.”
7-20 Reflection Garden and Memorial
All four moms are members of the 7-20 Memorial Foundation.
They’re heavily involved in the planning of, and fundraising for, a memorial to honor the victims.
“We raised the money penny by penny knocking on doors,” she said. “We didn’t just get a check written and be told to go buy a piece of art.”
Hoover said the Reflection Memorial Garden will include paved paths and 13 stone benches.
“It’s going to be nature oriented,” she said, “and next to each bench, family members will get to pick the flowers that will be planted.”
Hoover, the Chair of the Foundation, said they’ve selected an artist from 151 applicants and have reviewed the renderings.
When asked if they can say who the artist is and what the renderings look like, all four women answered in unison, “Nooooo.”
They said those are secrets that won’t be revealed until August 26, when they’ll have a fundraising event in the garden.
Dearman said it will be a special place.
“To me, it’s going to be a place where we feel the love that they are sending down to us,” she said. “They (lost loved ones) want to see us here and they want to see us celebrating and enjoying life, because life is about love and not about grief.”
Hoover says working on the memorial has helped each of the women cope with their loss.
“We have become friends,” she said. “We’ve put our hearts into this project, and to know that it is a reflection of all our hard work, I think the end result is going to be nothing short of beautiful.”
Bailey told Denver7, “I’m very excited to unveil the artist and for August to hurry up and get here.”