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Nine years after Aurora theater shooting, community members share messages of love and healing


AURORA, Colo. — Like many Coloradans, “all the emotions come falling out” each year on July 20 for Heather Dearman.

This year, the date marks nine years since the Aurora theater shooting in which 13 people were killed and 70 others injured when a gunman opened fire at the Century 16 movie theater.

Dearman’s cousin, Ashley Moser, was wounded in the shooting, and Moser’s daughter was killed.

“July 20th has always been about remembering my cousin’s sweet little daughter Veronica who was six years old when she was killed,” Dearman said. “I just always think of Veronica and the way she had such joy and such smiles for life, and just looked at everyone with curiosity. And she reminds me that we all need to be that way and just be kind to one another.”

Rocky Mountain PBS spoke with Dearman at the memorial garden honoring the victims. Dearman is the CEO of the 7/20 Foundation, a nonprofit organized to honor the victims of the shooting and construct the memorial.

Dearman said she wanted the memorial to be a place of healing and comfort.

“I come in here feeling really accomplished that we’re paying the love forward that we were meant to pay forward,” she said.

The memorial garden has a new addition: a paper crane little lending library. Dearman worked with Brandon Kellogg, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting, to build the little library. It houses not only free books for people to take, but also paper cranes that people can fold and leave messages on.

Dearman’s organization collects the cranes, which often include handwritten notes, and sends them to communities that have been struck by tragedy.

"It’s kind of like humans," Dearman said of the paper cranes. "Nobody is perfect but they all turn out beautiful in the end. And it’s the sentiment that counts."

“We know that in 2012, when people wrote us notes, it really did make a difference,” Dearman said. “We really hope that our collection never runs dry. It never has, even though there have been a lot of mass shootings. We’ve always had enough love to go around.”

More information on the paper crane project is available here.

The little library will be dedicated this Saturday, July 24, which is also the annual Reflection Garden on Tap Beer festival, a fundraising event for the 7/20 Foundation. The festival runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at the garden.

“We can’t control any other mass shootings,” Dearman said, “but the one thing we can control is helping support one another and just reminding each other that we are a community and that love wins.”

Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at

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