vigilante, sickbed, vigil
Obama Consoles Aurora as City Begins Healing
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
Published: July 22, 2012
AURORA, Colo. — President Obama came to this city on Sunday to meet with survivors of the shooting rampage at a movie theater last week, visiting the victims and their families and leading the country in mourning the 12 people killed in the attack.
From a Dark Theater, Tales of Protection and Loss (July 22, 2012)
Police at Home of Colorado Suspect Disarm Major Threats (July 22, 2012)
Matthew Staver for The New York Times
“Even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong,” Mr. Obama said. He described sharing hugs, tears and laughs as they told stories about loved ones lost and acts of heroism.
“I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband,” he said.
Across the city, residents gathered at makeshift memorials to grieve as a community as condolences poured in from places as far away as Hollywood and the Vatican. As the families of victims struggled with their loss, new details emerged about the shooting suspect, James E. Holmes, and what happened when a gunman fired into a crowded theater during a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday.
The carnage could have been worse, but one of Mr. Holmes’s weapons, a high-powered semiautomatic rifle, jammed during the shooting, a law enforcement official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said Sunday.
Police Chief Dan Oates of Aurora said that while they were making progress in the case, the investigation would take time.
“We’re focusing on how he got the materials that he got that were used in the shooting, that were used in the apartment,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re focusing on anyone who knew him and statements he may have made. We’re building a case to show that this was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this.”
The police believe that Mr. Holmes began planning his rampage for months, when he began acquiring the materials that he would use in both the shooting and to rig his apartment.
There were also clues as to how Mr. Holmes might have paid for the weapons and other materials he acquired. He was receiving a $26,000 stipend, in monthly installments of $2,166, for a National Institutes of Health neuroscience training grant for the graduate program he was enrolled in at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, a spokeswoman said. Mr. Holmes withdrew from the program last month without explanation, the university said.
Mr. Holmes was being held in solitary confinement at an Aurora jail, awaiting his arraignment Monday morning.
Mr. Obama never mentioned Mr. Holmes by name during his remarks, instead referring to “the perpetrator of this evil act.”
“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” Mr. Obama said.
The president focused his remarks on the “remarkable” stories he was told.
“Most of the conversation was filled with memory,” Mr. Obama said. “It was an opportunity for families to describe how wonderful their brother or their son or daughter was, and the lives that they had touched and the dreams that they had held for the future.”
He told the story of one girl he met, Allie Young, 19, who was shot in the neck. She survived, Mr. Obama said, because her 21-year-old friend, Stephanie, laid by her side and stanched her bleeding even as shots continued to ring out.
“Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go,” the president said. “Because of Stephanie’s timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs and she is going to be fine.”
The president spoke at the University of Colorado Medical Center, where 23 of the victims from the shooting were treated. By the time he arrived on Sunday, one was dead, 12 had been released, leaving 10 patients: 7 still in critical condition and 3 in good condition, a hospital spokesman said.
The president, along with his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, suspended all campaigning for the weekend. Mr. Romney, speaking at a fund-raiser in San Fransisco Sunday night, praised Mr. Obama’s decision to travel to Aurora.
Condolences poured into the small Colorado city from across the country and around the world. Pope Benedict XVI added his condolences during his Sunday morning blessing.
“I was deeply shocked by the senseless violence,” he said.
In Aurora, hundreds of people gathered throughout the day around a growing memorial across the street from the theater. A collection of teddy bears, flowers, posters, candles and notes steadily grew as friends, families and strangers gathered, seeking solace in community.
In the evening, thousands of people, including families of the victims, members of the military and elected officials, attended a prayer vigil held at the Aurora Municipal Center
Several young people wearing Batman T-shirts lined up and held a sign that read, “Like the Dark Knight we will rise again.”
“His story was that we’re all capable of rising above tragedy and being great heroes, and that’s the message we’re trying to portray,” said Kronda Seibert, 26, who was wearing one of the T-shirts.
On top of a small hill overlooking the memorial by the theater, Greg Zanis erected 12 white crosses in honor of each of the dead.
It was a familiar task for Mr. Zanis. After the Columbine High School shooting more than a decade ago, he delivered 15 crosses to Littleton, Colo., for those who had died. Mr. Zanis, who builds electric cars for a living, has made it a weekend hobby to build and deliver crosses to people around the country who have experienced tragedy. He said he had received calls asking him to bring crosses to Aurora, so he constructed them Saturday morning and then made the 16-hour drive from his home in Aurora, Ill.
Lori Furman, 53, laid a bouquet of gladiolus on the memorial Sunday morning when she visited with her husband, Ray. Both wore black ribbons that they got at church earlier in the morning.
“It’s been a hard summer,” Ms. Furman said. “We had friends, acquaintances who lost their homes in the fire. Now this.”
Standing next to the memorial, Jeannie Donelson removed her sunglasses and dried her eyes with a scrunched tissue. This tragedy was close to home. One of the boys who died was a friend of her niece and nephew. The 6-year-old victim was related to a friend of her niece’s.
“I guess just to be able to say goodbye,” Ms. Donelson, 49, said of why she visited the memorial. “Bring some closure.”
Moses Kalemba and his wife, Theopista, arrived from New Hampshire hours after the shooting for a wedding on Sunday. “I wouldn’t say we felt obligated,” Mr. Kalemba said of their visit to the memorial. “We just felt it was the right thing to do. I think this kind of tragedy is one of those things that really gets to you.”
Residents who had been displaced by the threat of explosives in Mr. Holmes’s apartment were looking to return to their normal routines.
Lugging his work uniform and a shopping bag with leftover chicken and cheesecake, Jimmy Davis said the end was in sight, literally, as he strode toward his small apartment building early Sunday after spending two nights in a nearby motel.
“I feel like a hurricane victim or something,” he said. “But now I am going home, turning on the air-conditioner and chilling out.”
Dmitri Shchekochikhin, 27, an international fellow and researcher from Moscow who is studying heart and kidney disease at the same university Mr. Holmes had attended, was not so fortunate. He lived in Mr. Holmes’s building and on Sunday was allowed only to recover some essentials: two cellphones, a computer, a thumb drive, a pair of shoes and a bag of clothes.
Unshaven and seeming agitated, Mr. Shchekochikhin, who has been staying with friends, said he took only his passport, wallet and plane tickets with him after the police instructed him to evacuate in the early hours of Friday.
“I had finished a big project and then drank a bottle of dry, red wine and fell asleep,” he said. Several hours later, the police banged on his door.