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Overnight ceremony remembers those impacted by Aurora theater shooting 10 years later

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation hosted a 10-year memorial ceremony honoring the victims, survivors and heroes of the 2012 shooting.

AURORA, Colo. — Each year there’s a memorial hosted by the 7/20 Memorial Foundation to honor the victims, survivors and heroes of the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012.

“There’s so many differences between this night and that night,” said Pastor Reid Hettich.

Two different nights, ten years apart. For those who were in the theater 10 years ago, it’s a different feeling.

“I close my eyes and I’m there. What I remember from that night, I remember everything very clearly it’s one of those things it never goes away,” said John Eisel.

For those here to help console, it’s also different.

“I’m struck by how peaceful and calm it is here tonight. And on that night, there was hatred, anger, violence,” Hettich said.

John Eisel escaped the hatred, anger, and violence. He made it out of theater 8 unharmed. But doesn’t view himself as a survivor.

“I didn’t get shot, I didn’t have to go to the hospital, I didn’t lose a loved one,” Eisel said.

RELATED: As mass shootings become more frequent, 7/20 Paper Crane Project continues on

Instead, he puts his focus into Aurora Rise, an organization dedicated to assisting those affected by the shooting.

But the memorials bring new meaning and new purpose for those left behind every year.

“Every year is hard, but it’s also comforting,” said Lisa Childress.

Comforting, for the mother of 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress. Lisa says he was funny, loving and had an ear for music.

Credit: 9NEWS
Jesse Childress, 29, was an Air Force reservist who was serving at Buckley Air Force Base. He put himself in front of bullets to save his friend Munirih Gravelly's life

“That’s how I remember Jesse. He loves rap, TuPac. He liked Linkin Park so when that music comes on the radio he’s there.”

The memorial honored the victims - the survivors. The heroes were cheered on as they played a radio call and drove through the memorial with flashing lights.

The loved ones and strangers in attendance took a guided stroll in a garden lined with lights, stories of the victims and flying cranes. The 70 white cranes represent those injured in theater 9. The 13 clear and silver cranes represent the 12 lives and unborn child taken that night.

In the garden is where Lisa sits on her son’s memorial holding his army tags. She says they give her strength.

“There was many, many stories of how he helped people that he crossed paths with,” Childress said.

Helping people is what ultimately took Jesse’s life, which somewhat leaves his family at peace.

“He was doing what he loved, full day of work and saved a friend that he had only known for 30 days and to me that’s - it may sound crazy. But at least I knew what he was doing. And I knew although it’s hard he saved a life on his way out the door to heaven,” Childress said.

While interviewing Lisa, a group of Alex Sullivan’s loved ones surrounded his memorial and started singing Happy 37th Birthday.

Alex turned 27 the night he was killed. He was celebrating by going to see the midnight premiere. But sadly, he never made it out.

Credit: 9NEWS
Alex Sullivan, 27, was a bartender at Red Robin at the time of the shooting. Many of his coworkers attended that night with him. He was celebrating his 27th birthday.

RELATED: 'What do I remember? Everything': Aurora police chief reflects on theater shooting

Now every year to celebrate his birthday his parents go to the theater to sit in the same seat where he was killed.

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation has a number of events planned over the weekend to continue to honor the victims and survivors of the Aurora Theater Shooting.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Aurora theater shooting, 10 years later

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