AURORA, COLO.: One by one, in churches, tree-lined gardens and hushed funeral homes, the victims of a shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater are being remembered for who they were and who they will never get to become.
There is Alexander J. Boik, known as A.J., buried Friday, who aspired to be an art teacher. Or Alex Teves, who was working to become a physical therapist. Micayla Medek was saving money to fulfill a dream of traveling to India. Jessica Ghawi hoped to become a sports broadcaster. There is Rebecca Wingo, who will never see her two daughters grow up, or Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who will never get to turn 7.
Families and friends are saying goodbye to all of them. From Texas to Illinois and across this city of half-lowered flags, they are gathering for funerals and memorials to mark the 12 lives that ended July 20, when a black-clad gunman walked into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire on the sold-out crowd.
Thousands come. The governor, the local mayor and the police chief. Former teachers and co-workers, friends and friends of friends. They come to light candles on a high-school football field, or loft bouquets of balloons into the afternoon sky. To wear hot pink ribbons on their lapels in remembrance of Medek, 23, or recall the last hugs they had received from Alex Sullivan, 27.
Politicians promise to remember the losses. Priests ponder how God could have allowed such bloodshed. Family members tell stories of their loved ones’ funny quirks and chaotic last moments. How Gordon Cowden, 51, had shouted “I love you” to his teenage daughters during the melee (they escaped unharmed), or how at least four of the young men slain apparently died after diving to shield others from the gunfire.
On Friday, at the funeral for Boik, the 18-year-old aspiring art teacher, hundreds of family members and friends walked into the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora to hear another round of stories about him. They wore purple ties, purple ribbons and purple shirts. They told stories about how he had grown from a skateboarding kid to a wisecracking teenager to a young man passionate about art and music and pottery.
“What he brought to the world is goodness,” his uncle Dave Hoover said in a eulogy. “My heart is breaking.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper joined thousands of people across this shaken city in asking the question “How could this happen?” “There’s no right answer,” he said. “There is no one answer.”
Prosecutors and the police have offered no insight into what the shooting suspect, James E. Holmes, 24, may have been thinking as he methodically assembled an arsenal of explosives, ammunition, combat-style gear and weapons in the months before the rampage. They have refused to discuss his motive.
But on Friday, court papers revealed that Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist who studied schizophrenia, Dr. Lynne Fenton, at the University of Colorado-Denver. Holmes had sent a notebook to Fenton before the shooting, and news reports quoting unnamed law enforcement officials have said its contents included plans to carry out the killings.
Inside the memorials, nobody discusses Holmes. His name is stricken. Hickenlooper referred to him as Suspect A at a recent vigil. President Barack Obama, in brief remarks after visiting with survivors and victims’ families, refused to mention the defendant by name. They say the only names worth remembering are those of the victims.