Emotions high at vigil for US massacre victims

2012-07-21 08:29

Aurora – Friends and relatives held a candle-lit vigil late Friday for the victims of a massacre at a Batman movie screening, which left at least 12 people dead and nearly 60 injured.

Some 200 people gathered near the Century Aurora 16 multiplex where the gunman, identified as James Holmes (24) opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

“We don’t know all the victims yet, we have families that are calling us to find out where their children might be,” non-denominational Christian pastor Thomas Mayes told AFP.

“One good friend of ours in the church has a 20-year-old son who is missing, and his best friend hasn’t answered either, they’re in disarray,” he said, speaking before the evening vigil.

Many of the mourners at the vigil, held on the parking lot of a clinic across the street from the movie theatre, could be seen sobbing and hugging each other.

Some left groups of candles and flowers on the lawn, while one letter read: “To all the innocent souls ... This is for you. We will never forget. This is Aurora.”

Banners read “Aurora is Strong,” and another simply: “Unity.”

Jesse Larson (20) led a prayer with 10 young boys and girls, all hugging in circle. When the prayer finished, they were all crying.
“I was actually going to see that movie last night,” he said, but didn’t have enough money, “so I didn’t go ... I’m very lucky that I didn’t go. But you can’t really control it. We just don’t know.”

Patty Almond, who described herself as “just a mother,” said: “I knew some of the boys over there, they’re all friends, my son goes to school with them. Some of their friends are okay, we just knew one of them is not, he did not make it, we are praying for him insanely,” added the 38-year-old.

Mayes recalled the 1999 Columbine massacre, in which two heavily-armed students killed 13 people and wounded 23 others before turning their guns on themselves at their school in Columbine, barely 20 miles (32 km) from Aurora.

“I was here. It’s the same empty feeling that you have no control, that the safety of the community is in jeopardy ... Where can we go to be safe with things like this?” he asked.

No motive is yet known for the Aurora killings, but the pastor speculated that Holmes could have been influenced by seeing violence in films, including in the latest Batman movie.

“So much of the violence in the movies, we accept so much violence. This kid probably was imitating something he saw, maybe in the trailer of this same movie,” he said.

In another show of remembrance for the victims, the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team wore black wristbands at their game against the San Diego Padres.

A moment of silence was held before the first pitch in the game in San Diego – coincidentally where Holmes’ mother and father live, and where he lived before moving to Colorado.

“The Colorado Rockies are deeply saddened by the horrific act of senseless violence that took place in our community early this morning,” the team said in a statement on its website.

“All Coloradans feel the pain and sorrow that has come with this tragedy. As part of the Colorado community, the Rockies share this pain with everyone involved,” it added.

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