Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora victim's father will return to theater: "He would want me to be there"

The upcoming reopening of Cinemark's Century 16 theater, the site of the tragic mass shooting on July 20 at a midnight show, has sparked a lot of controversy this week -- in part because of a heavily criticized letter that theater sent to the victims' families inviting them to attend its re-opening. In response to all the debate, Tom Sullivan, the father of one of the twelve who died in the massacre, says he is going back to the theater. His son, he says, would want him to.

Sullivan wrote an op-ed yesterday in the Denver Post, which also published a lengthy piece on victim Alex Sullivan, 27, written by Kevin Vaughan, who was a family friend.

Sullivan's piece yesterday came in response to reports that many family members of the victims were calling for a boycott of the theater after Cinemark, via the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, had invited them to attend a "remembrance ceremony" tied to the January 17 re-opening. (Representatives of Cinemark, which is also facing a lawsuit from injured victims, have not returned numerous calls from Westword).

As we reported, many of the families got together and sent a letter back saying they were outraged to receive such an insensitive note, inviting them to an event that included a movie screening and seemed like nothing more than an outrageous publicity stunt. (We published the full e-mail invite and letter in response).

Family members, in this case, don't always seem to be in agreement. The mother and stepfather of victim Jessica Ghawi signed onto the angry letter, but Jordan, Jessica's brother, did not and instead fired off a series of tweets expressing his disagreement.

Alex Sullivan, who was at the movie theater for his 27th birthday that night, left behind his wife Cassandra. She signed the letter to Cinemark.

His father Tom did not. In the Post op-ed, addressed to "neighbors and fellow moviegoers," he writes:

Movies have always been a tool to gather my family together. We went to movie theaters to celebrate birthdays, relax on snowy Sunday afternoons, and escape the craziness of everyday.

On July 20, 2012, my son, Alex Sullivan, did just that. He gathered with his friends to celebrate his birthday and watch one of his favorite superheroes. Several months later, we are faced with the reopening of the theater that my son never walked out of and a night of remembrance put on by Cinemark Theaters.

While this will be an extremely difficult time, if you truly knew my son Alex, you would know that he would want me to be there, if only to show that we will not allow anyone to take the joy we shared at theaters across the metro area away from us and help gather the Aurora community together.

Sullivan says that the re-opening of the theater is something that the community wants, including a night of remembrance.

He makes a point later of saying, "I will never tell anyone what is the right way or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one."

It's worth noting that at least one survivor of the massacre who expressed interest in returning to the scene of the attack.

Sullivan closes his piece, saying, "So I ask all to join me, if you can, into a future not as bright as the future would have been had our loved ones been there with us, but a future nonetheless. The seat next to me will be saved for Alex, but I'll have an extra hand if you need something to hold on to."

The full text of the op-ed piece is available from the Denver Post.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes: Post-its in courthouse bathroom promote film that says he was set up"

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin