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American Dispatch: If You Rebuild It, Will They Come?
By FOX News Radio’s Jessica Rosenthal in Aurora, Colorado
When some people outside the city of Aurora heard that the Century 16 movie theater was reopening six months after a mass shooting, they asked me, “Do you really think people will go see movies at this theater?” It is after all, where a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others. Witnesses remember seeing blood everywhere, bullets everywhere, bodies everywhere.
The answer is… it will depend. It will depend on the people of Aurora.
Many attended the reopening. But others refused to. Ahead of the ceremony a group of family members who lost loved ones wrote an angry letter to Cinemark, which owns the theater. “You (Cinemark) have shown, and continues to show, ZERO compassion to the families of the victims… You, Cinemark, have never once reached out to the families to offer condolences.”
They called the offer to attend the ceremony, “disgusting,” and refused it. But other victims had quite a different reaction. Richelle Hill tearfully recalled the shooting. “Rebecca Ann Wingo, she died right on top of me. And I couldn’t do anything for her… The bullets got shot. She said ‘I’ve been hit’. My fiancée put me down on the ground and I felt her fall right on top of me. She just kept shaking and shaking and then nothing. She just stopped moving.”
Yes, you can imagine after such an experience, it was nearly impossible to walk back into the theater. But she and her fiancée Evan Farris did it. “We’re not going to let one person ruin everything,” he said. “ We’ve been coming here since I was a little kid. This is my theater. This is the theater I grew up in.”
Everything has been remodeled. There is no sign of the massacre. Colors were changed to more muted tones of yellow, green, and blue. Everyone I met said they liked it as they wandered around, taking theater employees up on the offer of free candy and popcorn. One electrician I met who worked on the remodeling of the now named “Century Aurora” told me he heard girls giggling in one theater before the ceremony, a comfortingly normal sound to hear at the movies.
During the ceremony each speaker recognized that some victims refused to attend. They acknowledged that different people grieve differently. But when it came to the anger at Cinemark, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper offered a defense. He looked at Cinemark CEO Tim Warner during the ceremony and said, “I don’t know of another CEO in a similar situation who would, the moment he heard about it, get on a plane and come out here. He didn’t send anyone here. He came out to see what he could do.”
Marcus Weaver, who was shot in the arm and was with Rebecca Wingo when she died, called the ceremony great and said seeing everyone together was “awesome.” He says he sat in the same seat he was in during the shooting. Why? “I don’t want the shooter to feel he has any victory in this. I feel that’s where I was supposed to sit. And it wasn’t even by design. There were people everywhere and it just popped open and sure enough it was the same seat.”
LISTEN to FOX News Radio’s Jessica Rosenthal reporting from Aurora, Colorado: