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Colorado now has two memorials dedicated to mass shootings

The Aurora theater shooting memorial, dedicated Friday evening, is the second memorial dedicated to a mass shooting in Colorado. The first is the Columbine Memorial.

AURORA — At the time, it was one of the deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history … but in the just six years since, the Aurora theater shooting is no longer in the top 10.

But, for the hundreds of then-strangers bound together by a tragedy inside of an Aurora movie theater during the early morning hours of July 20, 2012, it remains a defining event … and it’s one they want to community to never forget.

It has taken years, but on Friday, the 7/20 Memorial outside the Aurora Municipal Center has finally been dedicated. This community garden is filled with 83 cranes in honor of the 70 people injured and 13 killed (one of them, an unborn child) in the senseless attack.

“There’s heart in every single inch of this piece,” said Heather Dearman, the vice chair of the 7/20 Memorial Foundation. Her cousin Ashley Moser was paralyzed in the shooting. Moser’s unborn child and 6-year-old daughter Veronica Moser-Sullivan were killed that night.

The memorial is meant as a place for meditation and reflection for the countless people affected by the shooting … as well as a place meant to resonate with people for years to come.

“Somebody might be sad, or having a tragedy in their own life in any kind of way, no matter how small, and if they would just come to the garden and walk through it, it’s a place to process that,” Dearman said.

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Kaylan Bailey went to the theater with her cousin Jamison, his girlfriend Ashley Moser and Veronica Moser-Sullivan. She said she was glad they’re honoring Ashley’s unborn child in the memorial … and that the six years since she went to see the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” have brought some sense of healing.

“Until now, I could only talk about the pain I felt, and that’s how I felt for the past five years,” Bailey said. “I’m feeling the transition from pain to acceptance.”

The memorial is called “Ascentiate.” Sculptor Douwe Blumberg’s design was inspired by the 1,000 cranes sent to the victims of the Aurora theater shooting by a community in O’Fallon, Missouri.

“This is universal,” Blumberg said. “When something like this happens, it happens to humanity, and I’m part of humanity. I can feel for it.”

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Blumberg’s grandfather was killed in a German concentration camp, and he said he grew up with stories of mass horror and loss.

“Something beautiful rising out of the grotesque,” Blumberg said. “To me, that’s a symbol of victory for the community, victory for the survivors, resiliency.”

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation was created by the city of Aurora after the shooting. The families of survivors and victims came together a year later.

In addition to gathering donations and selecting an artist for the memorial, the foundation has also lent support to others who have gone through the unthinkable.

After 10 people were killed in shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas in May, they sent a wreath of paper cranes.

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The Capital Gazette newsroom also received a wreath after five people were killed there last month.

Sadly, the Aurora theater shooting memorial isn’t the only remembrance of a mass shooting in Colorado.

The Columbine Memorial is also a haunting reminder of a senseless act of violence that will forever scar the community. Thirteen people were killed and 24 were wounded in the April 20, 1999 shooting.

The Columbine Memorial was dedicated and opened to the public on Sept. 21, 2007.

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Members of the Rebels Project, which is made up of Columbine survivors, will also at the theater shooting memorial dedication on Friday.

The first responders who ran into the theater while everyone else was running out were also at the memorial garden at 6:30 p.m. for the dedication.

“Something beautiful rising out of the grotesque,” Blumberg said. “To me, that’s a symbol of victory for the community, victory for the survivors, resiliency.”

Learn more about the 7/20 Memorial and the foundation here: https://bit.ly/2NrhH9E

A TIMELINE OF THE MEMORIAL'S CONSTRUCTION

Early August 2012: With help from Columbine survivors, the city of Aurora forms a committee to start the 7/20 foundation.

July 2013: The families of multiple victims join the foundation at the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

July 2015 to July 2016: Following the Aurora theater shooting trial, multiple fundraisers garner $100,000 for the memorial. This included a lemonade stand fundraiser that raised $8,000 and help from four of the jurors who convicted the shooter.

July 2017 to May 2017: The Memorial Foundation puts a call out for artists, and goes through 151 applications.

June 2017 to August 2017: Douwe Blumberg is chosen as the artist.

September 2017 to July 2018: Blumberg sculpts the 83 cranes at his home in Kentucky. The city of Aurora, meanwhile, works on landscaping the garden outside of the Municipal Center.

July 27, 2018: The memorial is officially dedicated.

Information and photos courtesy Heather Dearman.