Aurora theater shooting: Hundreds gather and say prayers at vigil

Nineteen hours after James Holmes fired shots during a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises -- bringing national media attention to Aurora and Colorado -- hundreds gathered near the Aurora Town Center Century 16 this evening to honor the twelve individuals who died and dozens more who were injured in the tragedy.

And they prayed.

"This is about the fact that love, prayer and unity overcome tragedy," said Amy Seibert, 28, who brought her two children Jordan, 5, and Leah, 4, holding a sign encouraging people to pray. "This sends a powerful message."

Seibert, who works in customer service nearby, said that some of her co-workers were impacted by the violence last night. "This is really hard for everyone."

Local religious leaders, alongside Aurora Representative Rhonda Fields, gathered outside Kaiser Permanente on East Exposition Avenue in Aurora, to pray for the victims of the tragedy.

"Violence is color blind," said Bishop Acen Phillips. "The devil doesn't care who he attacks. He goes from house to house.... It doesn't matter if you were born black, brown, white, pink, straight or polka dot, we've got to come together as a family. There's power in the family. There's strength in the family."

He added, prompting loud cheers and "amens" from the crowd, "If we work together, it will make a difference...If Colorado does it, the nation can do it...We're already a mile high. All we've got to do is lift it up."

Residents of Aurora and the Denver metro area lit candles, held hands and bowed their heads in prayer throughout the vigil, which lasted for more than an hour as the sun set.

"I do think it brought us together," said Denver resident Sheila Hughes, a school teacher who came with a sign saying, "We are one," which she had folks in attendance write their thoughts on.

Pastor Timothy Tyler, from the Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, told the crowd that he spoke to a woman who was at the theater last night with her boyfriend.

"She said that he pushed her out of the way. And he...has not been seen since," he said. "And I asked her if I could pray with her. And she kind of hesitated and didn't really seem to want to do that. So I said, 'Well can I hug you?' She jumped at the chance for a hug and began to weep. And it reminded me that there are times where you don't feel like talking to God, but you certainly need a hug from God. So I just want to pray for those who may not feel like talking to God right now. But I want to assure you that he's hugging us right now."

Throughout the vigil, speakers referenced the past traumas of Columbine and at the end of the event, Tom Mauser, the father of a victim from the infamous 1999 high school shooting, spoke to the crowd.

He urged them to offer support to people around them and to seek help and counseling.

"The way people reached out meant so much to us," he said. "That's why I'm here today."

More photos from the vigil are on the next page.

More photos from the vigil are on the next page.

More from our News archive: "Aurora theater shooting: One vigil tonight at 7 p.m., another Sunday at 6:30 p.m."

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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