Tears, cheers at vigil for US massacre victims
Posted Monday, July 23 2012 at 09:21
There were tears for the victims, and cheers for those who prevented even more lives being lost, as the Colorado town of Aurora stood silent Sunday to grieve the Batman theatre massacre.
Some 3,000 mourners gathered three blocks from the multiplex where James Holmes allegedly opened fire on those attending a packed midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on Friday, killing 12 and injuring 58.
"While our hearts are broken, our community is not," Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan told the crowds, many with small children or clutching flowers, as heart-shaped balloons floated into the sky.
The vigil was preceded by an address by President Barack Obama, who said he had "shed some tears" with the families of the dead, but also shared some laughter at warm memories of their loved ones' lives.
Obama did not mention Holmes' name -- an emerging theme since Friday's massacre.
Even before he spoke a relative of one of the victims, Jordan Ghawi -- whose sister Jessica Ghawi had blogged about surviving a shooting in Toronto only days before she died in Aurora -- had pressed Obama to focus on the victims.
"Sat down with President Obama. He has been incredible. He too has agreed not to mention the shooter's name," he said on his Twitter account.
And so it was with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who drew applause when he refused to mention Holmes by name, referring to him only as "suspect A" and insisting that the priority should be to remember the 12 victims.
"July 20th should never be about remembering the killer, it should be to about remembering those individuals, remembering those victims. So I ask you to help me here.
He then read out their names, after each of which the crowd chanted, "We will remember."
Then, addressing the deceased victims, Hickenlooper vowed: "We will remember you, we will honor you by celebrating life, by living our lives a little better."
Grandmother Genie Hartley, crying, acknowledged that the Second Amendment of the US constitution enshrines the right to bear arms, but said that what happened in Aurora was not about constitutional rights.
"I respect the fact that people have to protect themselves, it's about the second amendment. But what happened in this theatre was not about the second amendment, it's about a massacre," she told AFP.
One big banner read: "Thank you Aurora police, fire and EMS."
A few blocks away, a makeshift memorial has sprung up in front of the theatre, with hundreds of candles, floral bouquets, crosses, American flags, and signs in memory of the victims.
On a small slope, 12 white crosses are lined up, with the names of the victims, flowers and candles around them. Some have baseball hats, black laces and teddy bears attached to them.
People came to leave flowers and kneel and pray in front of each cross.