As Independence day rolls in and families in the Aurora community celebrate with food, fireworks, and good company, July marks a significant moment for Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after midnight on July 20th, 2012, life changed forever for our city. A killer struck at the Midnight premiere of the third Batman film by Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight Rises.” In mere minutes, this lone killer’s evil act cut short the lives of 13 people, left scars for many survivors, as well as countless emotional scars on those attending and those witnessing the aftermath.
Shock and disbelief followed this cowardly attack. There were no motives beyond a person’s desire to commit a heinous murder. How could anyone do such a thing in our town? “This isn’t what Aurora is like... this isn’t who we are,” some said.
When the numbness left us, anger settled in. There was an element of insult to the crime that someone could perpetrate mass murder on people celebrating the heroism of a costumed crusader. The mythology of Batman is that he lost his parents to senseless gun violence; to use the innocence of the movie premiere to violate the welfare and lives of so many was a very dark betrayal.
In the following weeks, we, as Aurorans, dealt with so much personal guilt over the lives lost and our own survival. Were we too free– had we invited chaos by neglecting some of our citizens? Were we too disinterested in the mental health of others? Were we too insistent on our happiness to consider the suffering or alienation of others?
Eventually, the Aurora community began to feel the need to learn from our grief. Although the loss hit Aurora hard, as a city, we found ways to be nicer to each other-- to be brave when fear had impacted all of us. We couldn’t change the past, but we could honor what was taken from us and build a reminder to ourselves to choose love in the hopes that it would help prevent the worst from ever happening again.
Instead of letting this senseless act tear us apart in political rhetoric and fury, we chose to remember the thirteen lives we’d lost and looked for ways to honor them. Out of that immense tragedy rose the 7/20 Memorial Foundation, a coalition of family members, survivors, and friends that vowed never to let that evil act destroy Aurora or dim the love we have to give each other. And in the decade since, we have done so many things to keep the lives we lost in the hearts of Aurora forever:
We have created the Peace Crane Project, using philosophy, fellowship, and ritual to extend love worldwide.
We’ve become a recognized resource and place of healing for victims of other shootings, helping communities in crisis decide how to respond to tragedy with our leadership and example.
We raised funds to build the memorial Ascentiate, a gorgeous sculpture that is the centerpiece of the Reflection Garden located in the Aurora Water Wise Garden.
We have brought our community together yearly for our annual Reflection Garden On Tap beer and chalk art festival, where we remember and celebrate the 13 lives taken and pay tribute to the survivors and heroes of that night.
We created Metamorphosis, our ten-year commemorative celebration of the healing power of the arts and how arts have helped save and transform the Aurora community.
Our offerings this year will occur on Saturday, July 23rd. They will include many community events designed to keep the memory of the people we lost and honor the people who survived:
On the morning of the 23rd, we’re helping to sponsor A Hero’s Run 5k, organized by former NFL player and survivor of the shooting Zack Golditch, who is now a firefighter in Colorado. This 5K run will raise money to create the Zack Golditch Opportunity, a scholarship for an Aurora Public Schools student-athlete. The race will begin at 9:00 a.m.; the final transportation from the registration desk to the starting line will leave at 8:30 a.m.
From 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the 7/20 Memorial Foundation will host a Community Reflection Ceremony to open this year’s Reflection Garden on Tap event. Speakers will include Senator John Hickenlooper, retired police chief Dan Oates, retired City Manager Skip Noe, and other first responders and survivors. The Reflection Garden event will feature phenomenal chalk artists creating paper cranes leading from the great lawn to the memorial garden and art throughout the festival. We have expanded the beer garden onto the Great Lawn of the Aurora Municipal Center and added food trucks, lawn games, and two bands (Latin Sol and Brushfire). Over twenty local craft breweries will be participating in the beer garden, including Resolute, Dry Dock, and Boulevard. On sale will be tasting wristbands to raise funds for our foundation.
The evening will conclude at 8:00 p.m. with Stratus Chamber Orchestra, Life/Art Dance Ensemble, and DAVA (Down Town Visual Arts) creating an immersive audio-visual experience called Metamorphosis that Assetou Xango, Poet Laureate, will introduce.
We hope that the friends and customers of Aurora AutoPros will come out on Saturday, July 23rd, to celebrate the resiliency of those affected by the shooting and the metamorphosis of our beautiful community in this past decade. Please help us to reflect, honor, remember, and contribute to the peace and healing that will be felt by all who visit the 7/20 Memorial Garden.
As we count the cost to Aurora ten years ago, it’s a good time to pull close to the people who matter and to leave nothing unsaid to the ones we love. Many of you are traveling this summer for vacations and family meet-ups and may need service to ensure that you arrive safely on your travels. If you need maintenance on your vehicle, please schedule an appointment with Aurora AutoPros as soon as possible. We look forward to seeing you soon. Also, we invite you to follow us on Facebook and our social media channels; and see what engaging, entertaining, educational, and fun things we share with our community.