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12 Remembered

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," bible quote read by Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila on July 21, 2012

Dark night, bright dawn

The threads of this story all start in a movie theater, but none of them end there. They are woven into the history of a community and the collective consciousness of a nation.

On July 19, 2012, none of the people who got in line for a seat at the opening of "The Dark Night Rises" at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora anticipated anything more than a 2 hour and 45 minute film. When they ran or were carried out of the theater on July 20, their perspectives were forever altered.

As we approach and pass the anniversary of the shooting, it is natural to reflect on the changes that have occurred.

Some survivors, like Joshua Nowlan, are still healing from physical injuries in conventional ways.

Megan Sullivan wasn't in the theater, but is healing from the loss of her brother who was. Inspired by the events that night, she's changed her career and invested her time in a fledgling charity.

Eugene Han and Kirstin Davis refuse to call this July 20 an anniversary, but they will next year. They're getting married exactly one year after they were injured in Theater 9, replacing the solemn meaning of the day with something worth celebrating forever.

The darkness of those moments in the theater created the opportunity for great heroism and human resilience.

It also led to political and judicial controversies that continue to test the people of Aurora and Colorado.

Over the past year, the threads of these stories haven't been woven into bindings. They've been made into bandages, used to heal individuals and a community.

Goin' to the chapel

"We were talking about that word 'anniversary.' Honestly, I don't think it should be used for the theater shooting. It's not a good day," Eugene Han


Almost one year has passed since Kirstin Davis and Eugene Han faced death together on a terrible night inside an Aurora movie theater.

The two childhood friends were on a date to see the latest Batman movie. It was supposed to be an enjoyable night out. Instead, it turned into a nightmare that left the two fighting for their lives after they were caught in the crossfire at the Century 16 Theater.

Twelve people were killed that night and 70 others were injured. Han pulled Davis from her seat to safety but was shot twice, once in the hip and once in the knee. Davis suffered minor injuries.

Both had a tremendous emotional battle ahead, but also had their faith to carry them through the long recovery process.

"It's kind of given me a boost in my faith, 'cause I did see God protect us that night," said Han.

As they recovered, they became closer. They decided that fate drew them together on that terrible July night in 2012.

Now, the young couple will make permanent their commitment to each other. They've decided to get married precisely one year after they almost died I each other's arms.

"That day getting shot was kind of like a moment, 'Oh my goodness, this is what we need to do,'" said Han.


The ceremony won't be a sad affair, even though it falls precisely one year after the shooting.

"It is a celebration, because a year ago the day, he was shot. And he could have died," said Davis. "(We were) definitely meant to be together."

"Why not make it a better day?" asked Han.

Davis said she has to stay positive.

"I can't look at all the negative. Because if I were to look at the negative, I would be a basketcase really."

She also has to move forward, and getting married is one way she is doing that.

"Bad things happen but you can keep going," said Davis.

Moving the chains

"It's all about moving forward, you just kind of got to get over that. I don't want to not live a teenage life, where I can't go to movies anymore because that's what teenagers do," Zachary Golditch, shooting survivor and CSU football player

The daily grind and lessons about overcoming hardships on the gridiron have been useful to Zack Golditch off the field.

"The mentality is don't complain about what you can't control and move on the best you can," he said.

The incoming freshman Ram offensive tackle says it's been a year of highs and lows since July 20, but it's his family on the field that helped him through it all.

"I always kind of go back to the football team because that's what truly developed me. Coaches from Justin Hoffman and just the entire Gateway staff and continuing with the CSU staff," he said.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound student athlete says his routine helped him come to grips with his experiences.

"Wake up, eat, go to a study session, eat again, go to school, lift and then run," he said. "Go to sleep and then do it again the next morning."

Golditch was shot in the back of the neck. The scars of the entry and exit wounds remain, but he's lived a fairly normal life on and off the field, he said.

"In the beginning I had to sit out because of obvious reasons. But once it was able to heal, I just said, 'I'm not going to let this hold me back,'" he said.

Since the shooting, he's won MVP honors for his team and graduated from Gateway High School.

"Everyone can see the scar," he said. "It doesn't define me as a person because it hasn't really changed me that much."

Golditch has been back to the movies since the shooting, but says it isn't quite the same.

"I find myself always looking at the exits and feeling a little bit uncomfortable," he said.

While the memory of July 20, 2012 will always be a part of him, Zack says he doesn't want it to define him. His goal is to define himself in the halls at Colorado State University and on the football field.

"Just kind of grow into the community and build a reputation of not 'the guy got shot and survived a tragedy' but become someone in the community that has an impact to the university," Golditch said.



Never take life for granted

"The pain tells me I'm still alive. That I can still push through it," Joshua Nowlan, shooting survivor

Joshua Nowlan was shot through the arm and the leg.

The 32-year-old father of two has battled through a grueling recovery -- six surgeries in the last year and more to come.

But if Nowlan has learned anything in the last year, it's to never take life for granted.

"That was something we'd planned for a while, wanting to see the midnight matinee of the Batman movie," he said.

Remembering his excitement, that night seems like a long time ago.

Nowlan went to "The Dark Night Rises" with two friends, Brandon and Denise Axelrod.

When the gunfire erupted, Axelrod credited Nowlan with helping shielding Denise with his own body.

"Josh helped me protect my wife, and he got shot," Axelrod told 7NEWS after the shooting. "We piled on each other and kept each other safe."

A year later, it's a daily journey for Nowlan to heal from the physical and emotional wounds of that night.

"The bullet went straight through here," he said if the bullet that hit his arm. "I was extremely lucky it hit the bone, or else it would have blown off my entire arm."

Another bullet hit his leg.

"I was extremely lucky it hit the bone, or else it would have blown off my entire right arm," he said.

After all the surgeries, he's in constant pain -- where he isn't numb.

"I constantly massage my arm, but there is no feeling at all in here. But I constantly do it, hoping I might feel something. But I don't."

The surgeries have made the colorful bird tattoo that stretched across his back look like a jigsaw puzzle.

Surgeons needed a skin graft to repair his arm wound, Joshua said, so they removed a "big chunk" of the tattoo and put it on his arm.

"It's definitely a wonderful conversation starter for a lot of first dates, though," Nowlan joked.

It's clear something prepared Nowlan to push through the punishing physical recovery of the last 12 months.

Maybe it was his previous military training, competing in marathons or climbing mountains.

Still, there were days when it was tough -- even for him.

Especially when he's had to ask for help.

"I couldn't bear lifting a fork so I could eat because the pain was too hard on my arm," he said. "I couldn't even walk down the street with my kids because I couldn't stand up straight and I was going to fall right down."

The once active outdoorsman now needs a cane to walk.

These days, he still can't run. But when he takes long, hard rides on his bike, he feels like himself again.

"It still hurts a lot, going through that physical pain. But the pain tells me I'm still alive. That I can still push through it," Nowlan said.

As part of his healing, a few months ago he walked into Theater 9 at the Aurora movie theater for the first time since the shooting.

"My legs felt completely numb. They were heavy," Joshua said. "I was putting all my weight into my cane, just to take those few steps."

"I did exactly what I planned before I got out of the hospital...to go back in that seat, stand up and say, 'I made it. You did not take my life. I survived.' And that was my biggest accomplishment emotionally to get through that."

He's made play part of his healing journey.

"This is a little bit more fun," Nowlan said as he used his repaired arm to hurl a Frisbee on a disc golf outing recently.

Recovery has been a grinding process. He still has bad days -- really bad days.

But through it all, there has been family and friends and famous visitors -- like Dark Knight star Christian Bale and Denver Broncos players who came to see him at the hospital.

"It just shows that human kindness comes out when a tragedy happens. It shows what this country is built on. That we take care of each other," Nowlan said.

He has learned lessons that are marking him stronger, day by day.

"Any day can be your last," he said.

After all this, he'll never take life for granted again.

"That's my goal. I hope that I can be a better person each year that I surpass that date."

"If I sit there and become afraid every single day of what has happened to me, then Holmes wins," Nowlan said. "And I'm never going to let him win."

Changed people, changing lives

"We all can be points of light, and so I just try to do my part," Marcus Weaver, shot twice in the shoulder

Marcus Weaver lost his friend Rebecca Wingo in the Aurora movie theater shooting -- but he survived.

"It's been a long road," Weaver said. "For a long time I felt responsible... and I still do a little bit."

Weaver was shot twice in the shoulder. One year later, the physical healing is still not complete.

"It's not as bad as it used to be. There is some numbness still."

But Weaver is a survivor and says he knows what saved him.

"I know that through God's grace, I'm here."

Weaver says his life has transformed since that tragic day. In many ways, he says, the change is for the better.

Facing the heartbreaking reality of losing his friend, Weaver found comfort in his faith. He said he was reading his Bible and one particular scripture struck him -- 2nd Corinthians 4-6.

"I'll never forget. It said, as people, God said we can be a light in the darkness," Weaver paraphrased. "And so I read that and I kept reading and it was like, 'Maybe I can be a light.'"

And many people were searching for some kind of light after the theater shooting.

"You know, the world wants to embrace the survivors."

The unexpected shove into the spotlight turned out to be just the platform Weaver needed to let his light shine.

He has spent the last year sharing his story across the country -- with prisoners, the homeless and children looking for guidance.

"I went and spoke to the youth group and there wasn't a dry eye in the house after I finished," Weaver said. "If I can help somebody who's struggling with addiction, or an obstacle, or a Goliath in their life... than I guess I've served my purpose."

Now, Weaver has a radio show on 101.5 FM called Changed People, Changing Lives. The show gives Weaver the chance to publicly recognize others who are making a difference.

In many ways, this is Weaver's way of honoring Wingo's memory.

"She was always trying to help other people," Weaver said. "I feel that she's looking down on everybody that was a part of [the shooting] and encouraging us in her own little way."

For Weaver, life after the shooting isn't necessarily easy, but he sees the passage of a year as an important milestone.

"July 20, 2013 means a lot, because it really shows how a lot of us are moving forward."

Marcus' next project is to open a transitional housing facility, through ABC Ministries. They are in the process of transforming a warehouse with 300 beds and hope to be up and running next year.

The picture you remember

It's the photo seen by millions -- actor Christian Bale in the hospital with shooting survivor Carey Rottman.

Rottman was all smiles in the picture. Of course, he had just met a famous actor.

Alongside the photo Rottman wrote that day, "I am definitely feeling nothing but love and am ready to get started on this recovery!"

But the smile in the photo was not just because Rottman was starstruck; he was also celebrating great news. His best friend, Pierce O'Farrill, the man he was sitting next to in Theater 9 when a gunman opened fire, was alive.

"It was just a terrible feeling," Rottman said. "It was probably three to four hours before I heard Pierce was OK, so all that time [I was] thinking my buddy is in the theater and didn't make it out."

O'Farrill says he'll never forget Rottman yelling in his ear.

"'Pierce, I'm shot, I'm shot,'" O'Farrill remembers Rottman saying.

Rottman was shot in the leg. Pierce was also shot, in the arm and foot.

Now these two men, who were so close that O'Farrill performed the ceremony when Rottman got married in June 2012, are recovering together.

"It's a long road," O'Farrill said. "I don't know if it's something we'll ever fully recover from."

But their lives are definitely moving forward.

"I just have to keep reminding myself that I survived, and there's a plan for me to be here," O'Farrill said.

The plan included something unexpected. During his recovery, O'Farrill stayed with family friends. Their oldest daughter visited often to lift his spirits.

"One thing led to another, and we ended up falling in love and dating," O'Farrill said. "We just got engaged earlier this month."

Both men say they feel very lucky.

"We can't even explain how lucky we got," Rottman said. "You want to take every day, have fun, laugh and be with the people you love and enjoy being with."

"It's definitely helped us to be able to talk about the tough stuff in the theater," Pierce said. "But at the same time, we still joke around a lot. He's one of my best friends and that will never change."

O'Farrill and Rottman said there's one thing they haven't done since the shooting - see a movie together. They say they hope to do that soon.

Healing the healers

"We were asked recently, 'Do you call yourselves heroes?' In my mind, that's my job and that's what we were trained to do. That's what we know how to do. I would never call myself that," EMT Daryl Johnson

The emergency medical staff at the University of Colorado Hospital are the people who save lives without their patients ever really knowing who they are.

In the early morning hours of July 20 as Aurora Police Department squad cars began arriving into the ambulance bay of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, organized chaos erupted as emergency medical staff, short-staffed and with a trauma center already filled to capacity that night, went into motion.

Twenty-two victims from the Aurora theater shooting arrived.

All 22 lived and went home, the medical staff proudly points out.

Medical staff who weren't scheduled to be working that morning rushed to the hospital. Doctors and nurses from other departments came to the ER to help save lives.

"People may not know but we were truly understaffed that night," said EMT Daryl Johnson. "Typically one true trauma would tie up all those resources. And we had 20-plus traumas come in and everybody kicked it into a different gear. It was phenomenal."

Wounds heal, scars fade and the body recovers.

But how does a medical staff, adroit at expertly mending tissue and bone, heal from the emotional scars of the night?

"Mentally it was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced," said Johnson. "Once or twice I have even questioned, 'Am I in the right field? Is this the right job for me?' And then it comes back to me, what else would you do?"

Johnson is a large man with an easy smile. But his easy countenance belies the inner turmoil he still experiences nearly a year after the shooting. Johnson has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his shift in the ER that morning.

"There are certain things I can't talk to my family about because they would never understand," Johnson said. "And in my mind, I would never want to put that type of mental stress on them, to ever have to worry about me."

Through therapy and time, Johnson is piecing back his life. Despite the progress he has made, he still doesn't know when all of the visceral details of that day will come back to haunt him.

"Weeks ago in church, I was singing a song and it hit me all of a sudden," he said.

A place where Johnson has found solace is in the office of emergency department manager April Koehler.

"April, my manager, has probably seen me cry more than anybody," he said. "When it hits me, I'm typically somewhere around here. I thank God for her. She's the one person when I need help, I can text her. Rob, our director, it's the same way."

One of the luxuries that Koehler was given when University of Colorado Hospital opened its new emergency department in April was a real office. The room, tucked into a corner of the expansive new ER, is a place of work and also of respite for Koehler; pictures of family and her two children decorate the space.

"I always say that I became a believer of love at first sight after my son was born," she said.

The mother of two was home in bed the morning of the shooting. Koehler's pager went off on her bedside stand, informing her of the situation. Even though it was her day off, she rushed to the emergency department.

It took some time, but Koehler said she has finally learned to let go of her anger and hate for that morning. Despite her emergency department reliving the horrors of that morning in every mass casualty event since then, Koehler said she looks at that event not as a time of death and pain, but as a lesson to learn from.

"I don't think time heals all wounds but I think it gets easier as time goes on," she said. "I had to learn how to control my emotions and my reactions to other tragedies. I think that's what I struggled the most with after the event."

Koehler said she found clarity while presenting at a conference in the Midwest in February. The talk covered details about the horrific morning but focused on sharing the lessons her staff had learned.

"I try to focus on the good that would come out of the event and not on the negative," she said.

If those lessons could help prepare another hospital staff in another part of the country, she said, than some good has come out of the tragedy.

"At the end of the conference, I had one nurse stand up and said to me in front of everyone, 'You've given me the strength to realize I can survive an event like this too,'" she said.

Giving back, not looking backward

"He wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alex was right where he was supposed to be. He was in the movie theater on his birthday," Tom Sullivan, father of Alex Sullivan

For 26 years the Sullivan family celebrated Alex's birthday on July 20. This year, they'll be remembering his life and reflecting on how they've changed in the last year.

The Sullivan family gains strength from Alex's memory. They refuse to look at July 20 as the anniversary of an attack.

"On the day, it's Alex's birthday. So for me, personally, it will be a day of celebration," said Tom Sullivan, Alex's dad.

"At that moment, you didn't think you could be a year from now and we're almost a year from now and I think it kind of gives a lot of hope," Alex's sister, Megan, said.

She continued, "I felt this need to do more and that my purpose in life is far greater than going to a desk every day."

Since Alex's death in Theater 9, Megan has changed her career path. She's now employed in the communications department of a local fire department and working to establish a nonprofit for victims of the shooting. Her goal is to help others in a moment of crisis.

"When you're in the thick of an emergency situation and you realize all the different... you know... people that are responsible for making things move forward," she said. "I did that, and I did that well in the moment and I can do that."

Megan and the rest of her family are now involved with All C's Collectibles in a charity called Aurora Rise. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit began as a one-time event in August 2012 and morphed into a full-fledged charitable organization.

The charity's goal is to provide tokens of support.

"That support is small things, like grocery cards and house cleaning and gas cards -- things that everyday people take for granted... but when you're dealing with trauma and the emotions tied with a mass shooting, it's not something that is easy to do," Megan said.

Tom Sullivan also changed his path after Alex's death. After his retirement from the Postal Service he began consulting with local lawmakers to understand how something like the theater shooting could happen.

"I don't want there to be another Colorado father that has to bury his son. That's the worst day of your life," he said.

He attended gun legislation debates during the last legislative session and visited with local lawmakers to share his perspectives.

Memories of Alex keep Tom and the rest of the family moving forward.

The Irish family held a wake in their back yard and, in their tradition, took a shot of whiskey for each story someone shared about Alex.

"The stories went on for six and a half hours from stories about him as a little kid to when he was streaking in our house as an 18 year old," Tom said. "We went through six of the large bottles of Jameson and two of the smaller ones and just heard story after story."

The family's love and hope are just one example of the resilience that keeps the Aurora community strong.

"I think it ultimately comes to a point to having control over your emotions and how you're going to react to things," Megan Sullivan said. "The court case will happen and continue to happen and they will do what they need to do about it, but that does not need to drive my emotions and where I am going."

Aurora Rise

Many of those who attended the "Dark Knight Rises" premiere were fans of comics and the superheroes that grace those pages.

"Being the only comic store in Aurora, we had a lot of customers, family, employees (there at theater), 80 to 90 percent of the people were 'All-C's' related -- one way or another," said Jason Farsnworth, co-owner of All C's Collectibles, a comic book store 6 blocks from Aurora Century 16 Theaters.

In the days after the theater shooting, Farnsworth started receiving comic books, statues and memorabilia from other comic book stores, writers and artists worldwide. With the truckloads of donations, he hosted a silent auction, raising money for the victims and the survivors.

"Being as that it was a Batman movie, there was a lot of negativity towards comics and stuff when it first happened as far as people just seeing the bad side of comics and what negative things came out of that, but really what they didn't realize is that the comic industry and all of the people involved are the ones that made everything possible today to where we are now able to help all of these people that we're helping," Farnsworth said.

"The comic book industry is very tight-knit, we're talking millions of people. Artists, writers and they are all protective of each other, which is really nice. We found that but last summer when all this happened, the outpouring of stuff that we had sent to us was pretty overwhelming. If it weren't for those people, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing now. People donated artwork and we had artists flying out here on their own dime to sign autographs all weekend," Farnsworth added.

The support continued pouring in, so Farnsworth kept going. He and the family of Alex Sullivan -- a longtime customer at All C's -- created a nonprofit called Aurora Rise to help victims with the little things such as gas cards, grocery cards and house cleaning.

"We're obviously not a huge organization, but helping with groceries, gas, small bills, whatever we can do and in whatever way we're capable," said Farnsworth.

If you want to apply for assistance, or to contribute, go to AuroraRise.org.

Community resilience center

"The outpouring of commitment from this community is absolutely second to none," Karen Morales, member of the 7/20 Recovery Committee

The Aurora Strong Community Resilience Center offers free services to all city residents impacted by the movie theater shooting last July.

Those services include exercise classes, art programs and individual counseling.

"Anyone who's coping with trauma of any kind, who lives in Aurora, can come to this center and talk with a counselor," said Grace Zolnosky, Executive Director of the Aurora Strong Resilience Center.

"It's the first of its kind in the country, where we are combining several community groups to offer a holistic approach to what is called resilience," said Karen Morales with the 7/20 Recovery Committee.

The center opened to theater victims in June and opened to the public on July 11.

While the shooting was a catalyst for the center, organizers hope it becomes a permanent fixture.

"I believe with all my heart that we have to be here forever," Zolnosky said. "Trauma doesn't stop after an event ends."

"There is an ongoing need for not only mental health services, but also connectivity," Morales said.

The center will be open Monday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It is located in the former Hoffman Heights Library at 1298 Peoria Street.

The city is providing the space and funding the 7/20 committee received will cover the expense of running of the building. A full-time therapist is provided by Aurora Mental Health.

There are two full-time employees but the center will rely on community participation.

"After the shooting... so many people wanted to help, but no one knew how to allow them to help, what to give them to do," Zolnosky said. "This gives them something to do."

Organizers are asking for donations for the center including coffee tables, coffee kiosks, side tables, refrigerators, chairs, book shelves and books.

For donation information, please call Grace Zolnosky at 303-739-1580.

The City of Aurora is holding a day of remembrance, charity and therapeutic activities to honor and encourage the healing progress one year after the movie theater shooting.

It is being held July 20 on the lawn in front of the Municipal Center, located at 15151 E. Alameda Parkway, starting at 7:30 a.m.

Ways to volunteer on 7/20

"We're providing the community and individuals a way to heal, a way to connect with one another, and to make a difference in the community," Susan Everett, Director of Aurora Volunteer Center

Volunteering opportunities include:

  • 7/20 cultivation commemoration will prepare and plant a new garden
  • Summer clean up
  • Aurora Strong beautification
  • Boys & Girls Club day of caring
  • Portable labyrinth
  • Xeriscape gardening
  • Painting and decorating project
  • Aurora Chamber and Freedom Memorial cleanup
  • Food Bank of the Rockies food sorting and packing
  • Sorting medical supplies for Project C.U.R.E
  • Cleaning Parenting Time rooms
  • Helping Hands remodel preparations

Signup for one of these events

Shootings spur gun laws, backlash

"Enough is enough," David Hoover, uncle of AJ Boik

A gunman in full-body armor opens fire in a packed movie theater with an assault rifle equipped with a 100-round drum magazine, a semiautomatic handgun and a pump action shotgun.

The horrific shooting rampage at the Century 16 Theater on July 20, 2012 in Aurora was followed four months later by the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, spurring a national outcry for action to combat gun violence in America.

At a December news conference on proposed gun control legislation at the Colorado State Capitol, David Hoover, a Lakewood police officer whose nephew AJ Boik died in the theater shooting, called for change.

"If we do nothing, from this day forward we are all complicit in what happens beyond this day," Hoover said, saying that it was easier to buy a gun than to adopt a pet.

Democratic state lawmakers responded by pushing through these new Colorado gun laws:

  • House Bill 1224 prohibited the sale, transfer or possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds. A grandfather clause allowed people to keep larger-capacity magazines acquired before the law took effect on July 1.
  • House Bill 1229 added a background-check requirement for guns sold in private transactions.
  • House Bill 1228 revived fee payments for gun purchasers who need background checks.
  • Senate Bill 197 requires a domestic violence suspect who is the subject of a court-imposed protection order to relinquish any firearms and ammunition for the duration of the court order. The law also prohibits someone convicted of a domestic violence crime from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition.
  • Senate Bill 195 requires people seeking concealed carry permits to take gun training courses in person. People previously could take online courses.

Protests of the new laws were swift and strong.

In May, before the measures became law, a group of 54 Colorado sheriffs announced they were filing a federal lawsuit against the universal background checks and gun magazine laws. They said the measures violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the Fourteenth Amendment's prohibition against states denying individuals due process and equal protection under the law.

"This lawsuit is for your rights and for your safety," Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said at a news conference. "These bills do absolutely nothing to make Colorado a safer place to live, to work, to play or to raise a family. Instead these misguided, unconstitutional bills will have the opposite effect because they greatly restrict the right of decent, law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, their families and their homes."

But victims of gun violence said they didn't understand why law enforcement officials were opposing efforts to prevent violent crime.

"As a parent who lost my son Alex at the Aurora theater shooting, I ask these people to put themselves in my place," said Tom Sullivan. "Imagine going around to hospitals trying to find your son, only to hear that he's been shot dead and is lying on the floor of the theater. And then having to tell that to his mom and his sister, that he went to a movie and never came home.

"I do not understand why these politicians are picking guns over people, and why they want to make it easier for criminals to get guns and for other families to go through what we did," Sullivan added.

Critics targeting lawmakers who supported the gun laws have raised enough signatures to force recall elections for Democratic State Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and fellow Democratic Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo.

Morse vows to fight the recall effort.

But opponents called the senator "wildly out of touch with his district."

Staying Aurora Strong

A reflection by producer Anica Padilla

I reported from the scene of the Aurora movie theater shooting the night it happened, and I will go back for the first time -- exactly one year later.

I am one of the many people who were there that night who are not considered victims, yet remain deeply impacted by the experience. I just didn't know it right away. But after a year of struggling to come to terms with the immensity of sorrow and pain -- I am determined to be part of the healing.

I heard the first reports on the Aurora police scanner while working in the 7NEWS newsroom, but decided to go to the theater before anyone really understood what had happened.

There, I was stunned by the number of police cars lining the streets surrounding the mall. At least six ambulances were lined up.

A paving crew working in the area told me they'd heard what sounded like dozens of gunshots. I asked if I could cross through their work area to take some pictures, and like that, I was inside the crime scene.

The first thing I saw there was a group of young girls talking to a police officer. One of them was wearing a white shirt, covered in blood.

Before I could stop myself I asked, "Oh my God, are you okay?"

She screamed at me. It was something like "How dare you ask me? You have no idea what is going on."

She was right.

Near the doors to the theater, the air was hazy with smoke or gas. An alarm was beeping over and over. A few people were crying, others talked in pairs, and some just seemed to be wandering around.

Two ambulances waited between the theater entrance and the crowd. Firefighters had backboards out and ready, but no one else came out.

I started with people who weren't crying. The first few people I talked to stunned me with their composure. Some described the tear gas and gunfire and terror like it was part of the movie they'd watched. Maybe they were in shock.

One couple seemed shaken but told me their story.

"The alarm started sounding and they kept saying to go outside but they wouldn't let us go outside so we didn't know what was going on," the woman said.

"One guy came inside and said there's a guy shooting, stay inside," the man told me.

"This is insane," another woman said. "I've never seen so many people injured. There just weren't enough paramedics."

Before the sun came up, the national network crews had started arriving. What I remember after that was being hot and hungry and the ache in every bone from standing all night. But I didn't want to leave. I remember reporters and engineers from rival stations let me use their cell phone chargers and log into their wifi signals. I remember going to Starbucks to get muffins and coffee for all the crews to share. Suddenly I was surrounded by people going on with their daily routine as if a dozen innocent people hadn't just been gunned down across the street. I was desperate to go back.

But after three straight days of non-stop coverage from the shooting scene and the suspect's home, I felt very differently.

I didn't go to a movie for six months - and that was a G-rated matinee. There was an armed security guard at the entrance. I didn't stay all the way through, and I still haven't watched The Dark Knight Rises.

I got to the point where I didn't think I could handle hearing one more detail about the horror and agony and bloodshed of that night. But every day there was more.

I promised myself I'd get out of the news business if the case went to trial. I even promised my mom. I had internalized my limit of anguish.

Then a wise friend reminded me of the most important thing. I am NOT a victim. My clothes were not soaked with blood like the survivors and police officers and firefighters and paramedics who tried to help the wounded -- and watched some of them die.

Then I decided this would not break me -- or my city. The rest of the world might let this shooting define Aurora, but we will not. We will stay.

And one year later, I will go back, and be Aurora strong.

Moving forward in the court case

Mouse over each sketch for information

Arapahoe County plans to call 5,000 prospective jurors, 3,200 of which will fill out questionnaires, making the jury pool in this case one of the largest in U.S. history.

During the trial, the jury of 12 and their alternates will not be sequestered and they will be allowed to use personal electronics when not in the courtroom or deliberating. They will, however, be given strict instructions to avoid coverage related to the trial.

James Holmes will be dressed in normal clothes and will not be wearing handcuffs or shackles during the trial. He will, however, be tethered to the floor in the courtroom with a harness hidden under his clothing.

The judge ordered that arrangement in response to a defense document arguing that visible shackles and a red jail jumpsuit could prejudice the jury.

The state is seeking the death penalty in this case.

"It is my determination and intention that in this case for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," District Attorney George Brauchler said.

James Holmes' lawyers admit he committed the shooting, but said in a document that "Mr. Holmes suffers from a severe mental illness and was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers."

Because Holmes has entered a not guilty by reason of insanity plea, he is required to be examined at the state mental hospital in Pueblo. The hospital was originally scheduled to deliver a report at the end of July, but that deadline was extended to September 16 when the hospital requested more time to examine the case evidence.

Despite the delay in that required step, Judge Carlos Samour is still planning to start the trial in February 2014.

We asked people to share their stories for this project, but they also shared their strength with us.

Thank you.

  • Introduction:
    • Author: Phil Tenser
    • Background: Getty Images
  • Goin' to the chapel:
    • Reporter: Marc Stewart
    • Photographer: Coby Howell
    • Digital Producer: Wayne Harrison
    • Photos: Provided by the couple
    • 2012 video story: Lindsey Sablan
  • Moving the chains:
    • Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
    • Photographer: Major King
    • Digital Producer: Phil Tenser
    • Raw video excerpt: Kim Ngan Nguyen and Justin Adams
    • 2012 video: Mitch Jelniker
  • Never take life for granted:
    • Reporter: Jaclyn Allen
    • Photographer: Jennifer Castor
    • Digital Producer: Alan Gathright
    • Photos: Provided by Joshua Nowlan
    • Background: Jennifer Castor
    • Raw video excerpt: Kim Ngan Nguyen and Justin Adams
  • Changed people, changing lives:
    • Reporter: Ana Cabrera
    • Photographer: Jennifer Castor
    • Digital Editor: Anica Padilla
    • Background: Provided by Marcus Weaver
    • Raw video excerpt: Kim Ngan Nguyen and Justin Adams
  • The photo you remember:
    • Reporter: Jaclyn Allen
    • Photographer: Jennifer Castor
    • Digital Producer: Deb Stanley
    • Photos: Provided by Carey Rottman
    • Raw video excerpt: Kim Ngan Nguyen and Justin Adams
  • Helping the healers to heal:
    • Writer: Ryan Budnick
    • Photos provided by University of Colorado Hospital
  • Giving back, not looking backward:
    • Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
    • Photographer: Jennifer Castor
    • Digital Producer: Phil Tenser
    • Background: Getty Images
    • Raw video excerpt: Kim Ngan Nguyen and Justin Adams
    • Aurora Rise sidbar: Amy Sward
  • Community resilience center:
    • Producer: Amy Sward
    • Writer: Anica Padilla
    • Background: Kim Ngan Nguyen
  • Shootings spur gun laws, backlash:
    • Writer: Alan Gathright
    • Background: Getty Images
  • Staying Aurora Strong:
    • Writer: Anica Padilla
    • Background: Getty Images
  • Moving forward in the court case:
    • Writers: Lauren Bradley and Phil Tenser
    • Courtroom sketches: Bill Robles
    • Background: Getty Images
  • Timeline:
    • KMGH Digital Staff
  • User Interface Assembly: