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Aurora marks anniversary of deadly movie theater shooting

July 19, 2013: Worshipers pray, some holding hands, during a memorial mass held for supporters and families of those killed in the Aurora movie theater shootings, at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, in Aurora, Colo.AP

Some recited the names of the dead. Some are doing good deeds for their neighbors. And some will practice yoga, take a nature walk or simply talk.

Coloradans looked for ways to heal as they mark the anniversary of the Aurora movie theater massacre with a city-sponsored "Day of Remembrance."

It was one year ago Saturday that a gunman opened fire early into a packed midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." The rampage lasted less than two minutes but left deep wounds that still ache today in Aurora, Colorado's third-largest city which spreads out across the rolling plains on Denver's eastern side.

Twelve people died, including a 6-year-old girl. Seventy were hurt, some of them paralyzed. Countless others inside the theater and out bear the invisible wounds of emotional trauma.

"There's no script for something like this," said Nancy Sheffield, who helped plan the Day of Remembrance. What the city wants, she said, is "the ultimate way to remember the victims, the families, the survivors, in a healing way and going forward for our community."

Democratic state Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose district includes the renamed Cinemark theater, said she is still numb and in mourning.

"It hasn't fully mended after a year," she said.

Fields said she isn't surprised by that. Her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee were shot to death in 2005 to keep Marshall-Fields from testifying in a murder trial.

"I'm all too familiar to losing someone to gun violence," Fields said. "I know someone's missing that used to be part of the unit."

At about noon on Friday, Fields and other volunteers began reading the names of the more than 2,500 people who have been died in gun-related violence in the U.S. since the Newtown, Conn., massacre in December. The last volunteer to read names was Stephen Barton, who was wounded last year in the theater shooting.

Immediately after Barton was finished, the group of about 40 volunteers held a moment of silence at 12:38 a.m. Saturday, the time the shooting began one year earlier. The silence lasted for 82 seconds to represent the 12 people killed and the 70 who were wounded in the theater.

The ceremony under temporary flood lights at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora was sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, not the city of Aurora. A gun rights group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, contended that the ceremony wrongly politicized a tragedy to promote gun control, so it staged a counter-rally nearby.

Saturday starts with an early-morning ceremony on the lawn outside Aurora's city hall with music, a poem and remarks from Mayor Steve Hogan and a pastor.

For the rest of the day, residents were encouraged to volunteer for community projects ranging from painting at a church to tending a community garden, from sorting food bank donations to donating blood.

Spiritual and mental health counselors will be available, along with art therapy projects, yoga, a nature walk and poetry readings.

Anniversary observances of tragedies can help victims heal, said Charles Figley, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans and director of the university's Traumatology Institute.

"They bring people together and they recognize that they're not alone, that they are part of something bigger than they are, and that's protection. It's a sense of safety," he said.

People who endure a trauma commonly face five questions, Figley said: What happened; why did it happen; why did I act the way I did at the time, and since; what if it happens again?

"So when you have a gathering, they're able to more completely answer those questions for themselves, and communities can answer those questions for themselves," Figley said.

Saturday's events were well chosen, Fields said.

"Basically the focus is on the victims and their loss and the way to get the community together around a common purpose," she said