AURORA, Colo. – As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper read the names of each of the 12 Aurora victims that were killed in the theater shooting spree, he asked the crowd of thousands gathered for a vigil to repeat the refrain, “We will remember you.”
As Hickenlooper read the names of the victims and the crowd chanted the refrain, silence was punctuated by the sobs and shouts of the victims’ family and friends.
The vigil was filled with prayer, tears, hugging and singing. Thousands of people, including the families of the victims, gathered at the Aurora Municipal Center for the vigil on Sunday evening.
The families and friends of the victims sat together under tents set up on the lawn. Politicians and law enforcement officials sat under tents at the top of the steps.
Hickenlooper said he refused to allow the state of Colorado to be defined by the act of “irrational, senseless violence.”
When Hickenlooper referred to suspected shooter James Holmes, he said, “I refuse to say his name.” He called him simply “Suspect A” and the refusal to recognize the alleged gunman drew some of the evening’s loudest cheers. The families of the victims gave the comment a standing ovation.
“While our hearts are broken, our community is not,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan told the crowd. “We will reclaim our city in the name of goodness, kindness and compassion. Let our city be a place where our vulnerable our supported by our strength. We will care for the families and we will care for each other.”
The crowd also erupted into loud and extended clapping when the heroic efforts of the Aurora Police Department and the Aurora Fire Department were praised. Hickenlooper described how police officers at the scene of the shooting quickly realized there were not enough ambulances for the victims so they put victims into their own vehicles and rushed them to the hospital. One officer transported six victims.
“We have experienced a tragedy, but now is the time to grieve, now is the time to begin to heal, now is the time to overcome,” Hogan said.