Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Special Report: Madness at Midnight -- A Search for Answers in Aurora
Aired July 28, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST (voice-over): A night of anticipation turns instantly tragic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gunshot after gunshot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's hundreds of people just laying around.
LEMON: A masked gunman on a rampage of terror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy is just standing right by the exit just firing away.
LEMON: Seventy people dead or wounded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got seven down. Seven down.
LEMON: The fight for survival.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We looked up and then there was another car and then there was another police car and there was another police car.
LEMON: The effort to heal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will remember you. We will honor you by celebrating life.
LEMON: The victims remember.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe if I was there, she would still be here.
LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.
One week ago in Aurora, Colorado, one man in one moment changed the lives, so many lives, in an instant. Tonight, the dramatic store of what happened inside theater nine. And the many questions about what was behind the shooting rampage that left 12 people dead and 58 others wounded.
Now, we're learning of possible warning signs from the suspect gunman that he had been seeing a psychiatrist and had mailed her a package allegedly detailing his deadly plans. But the package wasn't delivered in time.
Of course we're also going to honor the victims, the people we don't want you to forget. I've been reporting on this tragedy from here in Aurora, Colorado over the past week along with my colleague, Drew Griffin.
Here's our special report, Madness at Midnight, a search for answers in Aurora.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Batman. Comic book legend. Lucrative franchise. Block buster film star.
For Quentin Caldwell, "the Dark Knight Rises" was more than a movie, it was a life-long obsession.
It sounds like you're really anxious to see this movie. You are a fan?
QUENTIN CALDWELL, SURVIVOR: Definitely. I've been a collector for 20 years, 20 plus years. And you know, one of my favorite story lines was going to be the plot of this ticket.
GRIFFIN: When did you buy the ticket?
CALDWELL: Three weeks in advance because I started hearing --
GRIFFIN: Three weeks?
CALDWELL: Yes. Like when I bought them, I put a picture up on my facebook saying, you know, 7/20/2012. Are you ready? We are.
GRIFFIN: Across the country, thousands of other fans were ready, too. Lining up hours early for the July 20th release, ready and in rare form.
BILLIE FAIL, SURVIVOR: I want to say it was like 10:30, 10:40 something like that.
GRIFFIN: Billie Fail and her husband, David, were afraid they weren't early enough.
FAIL: We're going to the theater and it's already like half full of people. So we're like oh, darn, it's still crowded. We weren't early.
GRIFFIN: The couple settled into seats in the middle of Century 16's theater nine for the 12:05 show.
CORBIN DATES, SURVIVOR: It was packed. Crazy.
GRIFFIN: Corbin Dates almost didn't get a seat at all.
DATES: The only area that was available was the very first row. Nobody was sitting there and a few seats on the very end in the second row.
GRIFFIN: Next door at theater eight, "the Dark Night Rises" was also playing. And the place was buzzing.
CALDWELL: You could just hear the crowd just, you know it's anticipating. You could feel the floor kind of shaking a little bit. And you're walking in there and you are like yes, this is awesome.
GRIFFIN: Corbin Dates watched the last theater fill in theater nine.
DATES: I remember seeing a guy walk into the theater and he sat in the very first row to the far right seat. I think nothing of it. Just looked like a regular, average person.
GRIFFIN: Red hair?
DATES: And it looked like he had red hair, yes.
GRIFFIN: Then Dates saw the man leave the theater.
DATES: I looked over and I saw him get up and he was walking towards the emergency exit door. He opened the emergency door and he prop his foot in between.
GRIFFIN: At the same time Dates left his own seat rushing to meet a friend in the lobby as the lights dimmed in both theaters.
FAIL: And of course, as soon as we see the movie start, me and David are squeezing each other's hands because we're so excited.
GRIFFIN: The movie starts.
CALDWELL: Yes, everybody goes nuts.
CALDWELL: Yes. We all imagined ourselves as batman because he's anonymous. He's a man in a mask. He could have been anyone.
GRIFFIN: What Caldwell, Dates and Billie and David Fail didn't know, was that outside theater nine, another anonymous man in a mask was preparing for the worst masked shooting in American history.
Police say 24-year-old James Holmes put on full tactical gear, including a helmet, gas mask and a vest like this, arming himself with three guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Twenty minutes after the movie started, Dates saw that same emergency exit door open again.
DATES: The way that this person swung into the door, it seemed like this person was probably acting like a villain. To swing to the door, to walk in, dressed all in black, a black cap, a black gas mask, body armor, weapon wrapped around his neck which I thought was fake. FAIL: Me and my husband at the time, we both thought, someone's pulling a prank. I hear this poof from down on my right. And then I see this canister go all the way up, arch over the screen and land about four or five rows below me. My first thought was oh, it's some kind of a fireworks.
DATES: Come to find out it was containing a deadly like a toxic gas. It was hard for us to breathe.
GRIFFIN: Smoke filled the dark theater as fear swept through the sold-out crowd. And then it got even worse.
DATES: I realize people were screaming, a terror scream.
GRIFFIN: You were hearing shot.
DATES: It was like a semi-automatic rifle.
GRIFFIN: Boom, boom, boom?
DATES: Yes, exactly like that.
GRIFFIN: In rhythm?
DATES: Yes. Exactly the way he did it.
GRIFFIN: The masked man calmly aimed and fired as terrified movie fans dove for cover.
FAIL: He shot off about six or seven and I hear people panicking. And we got down. I couldn't see any -- I didn't want to look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Came down with his gun in my face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told my friends, you know, you've got to get down, get on the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw at least four maybe five people that were limping, wounded.
GRIFFIN: Those who could scramble for safety beneath the pail of bullets.
DATES: And as we're crawling, we can hear the clips of the rounds just falling to the ground. Some of them rolled up under the first row and they were burning our skin as we were crawling through them.
GRIFFIN: Next door in theater eight, Quentin Caldwell heard something strange.
CALDWELL: All of the sudden, I just heard a very distinct pop, pop, pop, pop. The theater kind jumped a little bit, even I did. And my wife just grabbed my arm and said that was way too loud. That was real.
GRIFFIN: The gunman's weapons were so powerful, bullets were bursting through the wall.
CALDWELL: All of the sudden, we hear people kind of gasping. And I look over my shoulder and there's a young lady getting helped down by a couple. And she's just kind holding her face like this.
GRIFFIN: In theater nine, dozens of people were already down. And the shooter with three guns on him and a fourth in the car was only beginning his deadly rampage.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Aurora, Colorado. Inside Century 16's theater nine, it was chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's smoke. There's explosions. There's guns being fired.
GRIFFIN: Stephanie Davies was putting pressure on the bullet wound in her friend's neck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's blood. There's death.
GRIFFIN: Piers O'Farrell and his friend were also in trouble.
PIERS O'FARRELL, SURVIVOR: Piers, Piers. I'm shot, man. I'm shot. I said me, too, just stay down. And then he shot me a second time.
GRIFFIN: On the floor, Corbin Dates was just trying to keep cool.
DATES: People in front of me, they are freaking out. My friend behind me was freaking out. And then I'm thinking we need to stay quiet.
GRIFFIN: You were like within 5-10 feet of this guy.
O'FARRELL: I thought he was going to kill me.
GRIFFIN: O'Farrell was even closer than that.
O'FARRELL: He was standing, literally, directly above me. His -- I can feel his boot right next to my head. And I just had my face down on the ground. And I just stayed as still as I possibly could and I prayed and I prayed.
JOSH NOLAN, SURVIVOR: It was a straight shot picking everybody off from one aisle to the next. GRIFFIN: Josh Nolan was sure he was going to die. Clear in the gunman's sights. And then a miracle. The semi-automatic weapon jammed.
NOLAN: If that gun did not jam, I am full certain I that I would not be here.
GRIFFIN: The shooter switched weapons and calmly continued firing.
O'FARRELL: Very methodical. He never once said a word. I never heard a single word out of him.
GRIFFIN: On the floor, Billie Fail felt something behind her.
CALDWELL: And I reached behind he and it's the little boy that was sitting right next to me. And so, he is literally, he's clinging to me. You know, I can feel he is terrified.
GRIFFIN: At 12:39, word went out to local police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE DISPATCH: 315 and 314 for a shooting in Century theaters. 14300 East Alameda Avenue. They are saying somebody's shooting in the auditorium.
GRIFFIN: Officers rushed to the scene arriving, they say, within 90 seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE DISPATCHER: 315 AND 314 there is at least one person that's been shot, but they are saying hundreds of people just running around.
GRIFFIN: Inside the theater, at some point, the shooting stopped. And Dates and his friend ran.
DATES: I'm not hearing anymore gunshots. I told Jenny, we need to bolt out of here now.
GRIFFIN: David Fail shoved his wife, Billie, toward the door.
FAIL: And he's pushing people saying go, go, go, move it, move it. And he said that he felt the little boy grab his hand. So he was pulling both of us out the theater.
DATES: On the upper part of the auditorium, there were bodies that were hanging over the chairs.
FAIL: And I crawled over someone and he wasn't moving. It was a guy in a white shirt and he was just laying there on his side.
DATES: As I was running out into the lobby making to the door, a cop was coming in with a shotgun.
GRIFFIN: First responders would soon see the first signs of carnage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: 316, I need a rescue in here hot, see we got a guy shot. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE POLICE: Team six, we got another person outside shot in the leg, a female. I got people running out the theater that are shot in room nine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: 318, I got another victim on the north store of this theater in the parking lot.
GRIFFIN: Outside the theater, the desperate hunt for the suspected killer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE OFFICER 1: That white car in the rear of the lot, is that the suspect?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE OFFICER 2: Yes, we have got the rifles, gas mask.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE OFFICER 1: OK, hold that position. Hold your suspect.
GRIFFIN: The suspect surrendered without offering any resistance. His hair was dyed red. He told police, "I am the Joker."
In theater nine, dozens of men, women, and children laid dead or wounded and urgently needed help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: Seven down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: I have got a child victim. I need rescue at the back door of theater nine now.
FAIL: As soon as we're out, I looked behind me. And there's a guy right behind me holding the side of his neck and there's blood all over his face. Just all over him. And that's the moment whenever I just -- I really freaking out.
GRIFFIN: In the parking lot, the struggle to save lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: I need as many ambulance as we can to the Dillard's lot. I want my fire trucks there also, and I will start bringing them in to triage people and them out.
GRIFFIN: Quentin Caldwell.
CALDWELL: So we get outside and that's when we saw the totality of everything, how bad it was.
GRIFFIN: What did you see?
CALDWELL: There was a young lady, the first one I saw, kind of in a pink shirt. She was just peppered with blood, with wounds all the way down her left side and, you know.
CALDWELL: Yes, that's what I immediately assumed was a shotgun, you know. And the ambulances were still showing up.
GRIFFIN: But not, it seems, fast enough, given the number of casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: I have got one ambulance here. Where are my ambulance at?
GRIFFIN: Dozens of wounded, all at once, overwhelmed emergency responders. Cops on the scene decided to improvise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: Metro 10. Lincoln 25, do I have permission to start taking some of these victims via, via car. I got a whole bunch of people shot out here, no rescue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: Yes. Load them, get them in cars, get them out of here.
DOCTOR COMILLA SASSON, ATTENDING PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HOSPITAL: We actually went ahead into our disaster mode.
GRIFFIN: At university hospital, Dr. Comilla Sasson and her team were expected a handful of victims.
SASSON: And the first one was coming out of the back of a police car and that's when something kind triggered this was going to be something different.
GRIFFIN: They pulled the first victim from the car, then.
SASSON: All of the sudden, we looked up and then there's another car, and then another police car and then another police car. And within about 15-20 minutes, we had nine critical patients here on our doorstep.
DOCTOR GILBERT PANEDA, EMS DIRECTOR, MEDICAL CENTER OF AURORA: There was a patients in this room right here who have --
GRIFFIN: Across town at Aurora Medical Center, Dr. Gilbert Paneda faced a similar scene.
PANEDA: And the first casualty I saw was a gentleman with hallway with a large injury to his leg. He had a tourniquet around his leg. I walked by him and walked to the rest of the part and notice small spot occasions.
GRIFFIN: The injuries were diverse and severe.
SASSON: A lot of them actually had internal bleeding. And those are the ones that I think are scary for us. And that's really what sets our gunshot victims very much apart from everyone we see.
GRIFFIN: Victims were talking one minute, unresponsive the next.
PANEDA: There was shotgun blast wounds. Injuries from the high caliber, obviously a powerful, high-velocity weapon.
GRIFFIN: At six area hospitals, teams of E.R. professionals kept nearly all of the shooting victims alive.
PANEDA: Everyone that came to this hospital survived.
GRIFFIN: At university hospital 22 of 23 patients made it. And that says Sasson is what turned the Aurora massacre into the Aurora miracle.
SASSON: I got very emotional when I saw my patients. They're so resilient. They're so strong. And I think I just knew did it seem them walking and talking because the last picture I had in my head is them on a stretcher critically injured getting rolled up to the operating room.
GRIFFIN: The shooting was over. The injuries under control. And the suspect in custody. And, yet, the terror was far from over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: Make no mistake, OK. This apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it.
GRIFFIN: Just before midnight inside the third floor apartment building at 1690 Paris street, music suddenly began to play. Loud music. Downstairs, Caitlin Fonzi wasn't quite asleep yet.
CAITLIN FONZI, SUSPECT'S NEIGHBOR: We heard the loud techno music coming from the upstairs apartment which is really odd because like I said, it is really quiet up there. We never heard anything.
GRIFFIN: Music so loud it was annoying and Caitlin Fonzi decided to go upstairs and stop it. It was coming from behind the door of James Holmes apartment.
FONZI: I went upstairs and knocked on the door quite a few time and realized it was possibly unlocked. And so, I thought about peering in there, have my hand in that door handle and just yelling at them to say hey, turn it down. And I just decided not to do that. I just had in trepidation. And the little voice told me no, to just let the cops handle it.
GRIFFIN: It was a good thing she didn't get inside, a very good thing.
DAN OATES, AURORA POLICE CHIEF: Make no mistake, OK. This apartment was designed, I say, based on everything I've seen, to kill whoever entered it.
GRIFFIN: Police say Holmes had left behind a vicious booby trap. More than 30 homemade explosives. 10 gallons of gasoline. All connected through a spaghetti wire network of cables triggered to explode by the first person who entered the apartment door.
JIM YACONE, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, DENVER: If a neighbor or an unassuming pedestrian would have walked through that door, or God forbid a first responder, they would have sustained significant injuries and/or lost their life.
GRIFFIN: By that time, police say James Holmes was on the way to theater nine. It was part of a meticulous methodical dance of death that police say was orchestrated by the suspect. He was armed at the teeth, elaborately prepared to kill and committed to as much death and destruction as humanly possible. An automatic rifle like this one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your standard meat potatoes AR 15.
GRIFFIN: A shotgun like this one. Two powerful handguns. And he was ready for mayhem.
OATES: The suspect was dressed all in black. He was wearing a ballistic helmet. A tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector and a groin protector and a gas mask, and black tactical gloves.
GRIFFIN: The combat gear, the vest, gas mask, ammo bags an bought with a few strokes of a keyboard from a company called Tactical Gear for about $300. Purchases with clear forethought. Planning to kill.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONSULTANT: What he was wearing was designed that if he encountered some resistance inside that theater, it would offer some measure of protection. So he could keep going with his mission to keep shooting people. To keep shooting the patrons in there.
GRIFFIN: Tom Fuentes is a CNN consultant who spent decades with the FBI.
FUENTES: It was methodically planned and he was very meticulous in the gear that he assembled and the equipment and the fire power, the ammunition and weapons.
GRIFFIN: And only had one thing in mind.
FUENTES: To actually kill as many people as he could possibly kill in one shooting spree inside that theater.
GRIFFIN: And all of it, every gun, every round of ammunition, the protective gear, all perfectly legal.
FUENTES: You have nothing that would have come up in his background. You could hire a hundred detectives to do is background and not find one reason to deny him the ability to buy a lawful firearm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your Gloc 22.
GRIFFIN: Not only did he buy the weapons legally but over the Internet with a few strokes of a keyboard, he also bought thousands of rounds of ammunition and so-called aftermarket extras, extra magazines to hold all the bullets as well as his protective gear.
When the day broke after the horrific killing spree, law enforcement returned to the apartment on Paris street. We've all seen the pictures by now. A policeman purge at the end of the fire department planner, poking the windows, finally breaking them and sending in a robot camera.
OATES: I've personally never seen anything like what the pictures show us is in there.
GRIFFIN: It took 36 hours to dismantle the booby traps and removed the danger of the homemade bombs from exploding which were then driven to a secure location where police say this is what James Holmes had planned for police, for firefighters, or even for a neighbor complaining about music, anyone who would open his apartment door and enter.
SERGEANT CASSIDEE CARLSON, AURORA POLICE: We are hopeful that we have eliminated the remaining major threats.
FUENTES: Not only kill the people who were in the building and really close to it. But the fire and the damage that could have been done, people report that had the entire third floor would have gone up in smoke.
GRIFFIN: Now the question is why. Just who is he? And what could have triggered this deadly rampage?
GRIFFIN /(voice-over): The James Holmes who looked very disoriented at his first court appearance is far different from the all-American boy. Tom Mai remembers growing up next door.
TOM MAI, HOLMES FAMILY NEIGHBOR: He is a very tangible. Very nice family. Very good neighborhood. Very typical family.
GRIFFIN: Mai's house is just a few feet away from where the Holmes family lives in suburban San Diego. Holmes mother is a nurse, his father a scientist.
The last time you saw him, that was not the same person, demeanor that you saw in that courtroom on Monday.
MAI: Definitely not. Yes. Totally different.
GRIFFIN: But who really knew him? No close friends have emerged and his family isn't talking. And if there were warning signs years ago, no one saw them.
As a child, he was known as Jimmy to his classmates at Castroville Elementary school in northern California where he played basketball and soccer.
ADAM MARTINEZ, FORMER CLASSMATE OF JAMES HOLMES: The way I knew him, he was a very nice kid. He excelled in academics. He was top of the class. And even back then, he was ahead of every student.
GRIFFIN: So much ahead that all of these years later they all remember Jimmy well.
CHRIS ELKINS, FORMER CLASSMATE OF JAMES HOLMES: Oh, man, he finished those tests way before I would. Pretty much the rest of the class except for maybe one or two other students.
MARTINEZ: We have, at one point, in fifth grade, we put together a class web site and he kind of collaborated with it. He had computer skills back then as a kid, as a young kid.
GRIFFIN: Paul Karrer was his fifth grade teacher.
PAUL KARRER, JAMES HOLMES' FIFTH GRADE TEACHER: When I saw the photo of him with the black hair, I did not recognize him as the boy that I knew almost Harry Potter-like with oval glasses.
GRIFFIN: And image that haunts him today.
KARRER: That's really disturbing. To be so close to something like that bothers you to your essence. And, particularly, as a teacher, you're thinking this is one of my kids. And then you also think could I have done anything? Or did I see anything? Did I miss anything? Is, you know, could I have done anything to prevent this? Did I do anything to cause this? And, you know, which the answer is no.
GRIFFIN: By high school, the family was living in San Diego. At West View high, Holmes excelled and made the junior varsity soccer team. After high school in 2006, he attended a rigorous boot camp in neurobiology at the Salt Institute. This video showing him giving a presentation is in stark contrast to the images after the shooting.
But, apparently, not all was well. His supervisor at the institute told the Los Angeles times Holmes was socially inept and incredibly uncommunicative and wasn't a particularly good student.
Still, later in college at the University of California Riverside, he stood out, at least academically.
TIMOTHY WHITE, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA RIVERSIDE: There's academic credential coming in and while he was here puts him at the top of the top. You know, very rigorous majors that includes heavily involved scientists and physics to chemistry to biology an anatomy physiology, the psychological aspects of how the neural systems works. It's one of our most rigorous majors.
GRIFFIN: But even with all of his academic achievements, after graduating college, he barely couldn't find a job right away.
Was he trying to get a job, do you know?
MAI: Like when he graduated from the UC Riverside, he come home and tried to look for a job. But job very hard to come by because of the economic downturn.
GRIFFIN: In 2011, though, James Holmes appeared to rebound. He was one of just six students accepted at the University of Colorado's neuroscience graduate program and was awarded a $26,000 grant from the national institutes of health.
BARRY SHUR, DEAN OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DENVER: The applications to the program is very competitive. We get more than 10 applications for an opening. We take about five or six students per year into this program.
GRIFFIN: For the last year, he has walked this campus, studied here, researched here, yet few knew him. Least of all the campus police whose records show no trouble whatsoever.
DOUG ABRAHAM, CHIEF, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER POLICE: We've had no contact with him on a criminal matter what so ever as a police department.
GRIFFIN: And if he had any close friends in Aurora, no one is talking. One student who worked with him for three months told us I worked near him, but I wasn't close to him. I don't think anyone was close to him.
Another who sat in the same lecture class said I can't remember him uttering a single word.
School officials have told everyone not to talk with reporters unless cleared in advance. One big, unanswered question, was Holmes amassing that arsenal by accepting packages of ammunition sent to the school itself?
DON ELLINMAN, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER: If it came in by way of UPS or FEDEX, nobody would even know about it. There are thousands of packages that come into this institution every day.
GRIFFIN: The university says a package from Holmes was delivered at the school on Monday after the shooting. It was sent to a psychiatrist Holmes was seeing. Dr. Lyn Fenton, also the university's medical director of student mental health services.
Some news report say in that package Holmes wrote about killing people. Fenton did not respond to an e-mail or phone calls.
In May, according to this class schedule, Holmes was supposed to give a presentation on micro RNA bio-markers, a topic that explores genetics and mental illness. On June 7th, he took the required oral exams and did poorly. Three days later, he told the university he was withdrawing but didn't give a reason.
And Holmes access to secure areas of the school was immediately removed. He applied online to June 25th to join this private gun range, a half-hour drive from his apartment. The owner followed up on the application and listened to a voice message on the other end that he describes as "weird," almost like the person leaving the message was drunk. He told CNN gutter, freakish, maybe drunk, just weird and bizarre. It was James Holmes' message.
Holmes was also recently on this web site. Posting a picture in red hair. It is a sex site. Adultfriendfinder.com. Still, on the outside, James Holmes appeared normal. Jackie Mitchell, a neighbor, remembers having a beer with Holmes at this local bar. It was just four days before the shooting.
JACKIE MITCHELL, NEIGHBOR: I mean, just an intelligent-looking guy. So, I mean, you don't know what a killer looks like, but it didn't look like him.
GRIFFIN: Few answers to what became of James Holmes who showed so much promise a dozen years ago.
MARTINEZ: I would like to know what happened in that 13-year, 14-year period that led to this. It's obviously not the kid we went to school with. It's a real tragedy with what happened and what took place in the tragedy for his family and for all of the victims' families. And it's a horrible thing that this happened. And I just wonder how this could happen and why.
GRIFFIN: A question Aurora is asking.
Coming up, a shattered community tries to recover from the tragedy.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Sunday evening, less than 72 hours after the shooting stopped, thousands gathered on the lawn surrounding Aurora's municipal center.
JOHN GAY, KEY COMMUNITY RESPONSE TEAM: Wow! Look around. Isn't it amazing the outpouring of support for the victims, their families and our community?
LEMON: It was a massive vigil. Time for hugs, tears and prayers.
PASTOR ROBIN HOLLAND, LIVING HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: We weep with you today. But we weep because we have hope that tomorrow was going to be brighter. You are Aurora. We are Aurora. We grieve together.
LEMON: The main purpose? To help the shattered community find a way back.
STEVE HOGAN, MAYOR, AURORA, COLORADO: While our hearts are broken, our community is not. We will take this experience and use it to strengthen our commitment to each other. Our Aurora will be a model city on how to absorb and overcome a terrible and unexpected tragedy.
LEMON: Aurora, Colorado, ten miles east of Denver. Before it was striving to be a model of resilience. It was a model of diversity. A rich mosaic of different cultures. Half of the 325,000 residents are minority.
ADAM GOLDSTEIN, REPORTER, AURORA SEMINAL: I cover the Aurora public school district. And it's one of the school districts with the highest number of languages spoken in the entire country. It's more than 150. There are Nepalese refuges, there are -- there's a big Korean community. There's a big African community.
LEMON: Local reporter, Adam Goldstein, grew up in Aurora.
GOLDSTEIN: I think you can't find a place as American as this city just in terms of the diversity.
LEMON: When you grew up, was it as diverse?
GOLDSTEIN: My recollections start as a little kid growing up across the street from a Palestinian family. And my father is Jewish. And you know, they were my best friends growing up. And it wasn't until I was older that I thought this is a situation that's probably unique to Aurora and probably unique to the United States.
LEMON: And from this unique place came a unique response to the tragedy.
Hours after the shooting, Jordan Ghawi, brother of 24-year-old victim Jessica Ghawi who talked to Anderson Cooper and raised an uncommon idea. Keep the shooter's name out of the media.
JORDAN GHAWI, BROTHER OF VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: I want the word out about my sister, her life, but I also want media to be saturated with the shooter's name. The more air time that the victims have, the less time the man gets his two seconds on television. I want the victims to be remembered rather than this coward.
LEMON: It was an idea quickly embraced by the community.
JOHN HICKENLOOPER, COLORADO GOVERNOR: And I refuse to say his name.
HICKENLOOPER: At my house, we're just going to call him suspect A.
LEMON: It was a message that resonated across the nation. After meeting with the survivors and victim's families, even President Obama agreed not to mention the shooter's name.
That vow also hit home with a community all too familiar with tragedy. In the shadow of Aurora, just 20 miles away.
CRAIG SCOTT, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: I am in full support of this idea of not naming the shooter's name and not putting attention on the shooter.
LEMON: Craig Scott is a survivor of the Columbine shooting 13 years ago. Two of the 13 people who died in that tragedy were Scott's friends, shot right in front of him. Another was his sister, 17-year- old Rachel Scott, murdered while sitting on the grass near the school entrance.
SCOTT: It would have definitely helped me to hear the names of the shooters at Columbine less. To see them less on the media, to see them less on the front pages of newspapers holding their guns.
LEMON: It's a move that may erase a killer's name, but it can't erase the pain. One thing that can help, Scott says, is spreading kindness. It's why his family created a foundation called Rachel's Challenge to try to prevent more school violence. But what helps most of all, he says, remember the lives of the victims.
HICKENLOOPER: Micayla Medek.
CROWD: We will remember.
HICKENLOOPER: Veronica Mosier Sullivan.
CROWD: We will remember.
HICKENLOOPER: Alex Sullivan.
CROWD: We will remember.
HICKENLOOPER: Alexander Teves.
CROWD: We will remember.
LEMON: We remember. Next.
LEMON(voice-over): On the bottom of a dirt hill, across from that darkened theater, 12 crosses stand to memorialize those who were tragically lost last week. 12 lives. 12 futures. 12 names that must be remembered instead of that one name everyone wants to forget. We will remember them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is him. His name is Alex Sullivan. Today is his birthday.
LEMON: Before we knew for sure who had lived and who had died, Alex Sullivan was one of the first names we heard. In the hours after the shooting, his father desperately searched for his missing 27-year-old son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried because I know he's hurt. That's -- I know he's hurt. So I've got to get to him and find out where he is.
LEMON: Alex never made it out of the theater. He had gone there Friday night with a group of friends. It was two days before his first wedding anniversary and the night of his 27th birthday. He tweeted, "oh, man. One hour till the movie. It is going to be the best birthday ever." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always saw him bigger than life. If you want to count a rich man by the people who know him and that call him friend, he was the wealthiest man I ever met. Yes.
LEMON: Veronica Moser Sullivan. She was the smallest victim of this very big tragedy and you have no doubt seen her picture. An adorable 6-year-old finding delight in a drippy ice cream cone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a vibrant 6-year-old, excited. She just learned to swim and you know, just a great little girl, excited about life.
LEMON: She loved to read and play dress-up. Jessica was at the theater for girls' night with her friend and mom. A mother still in the hospital devastated by the loss of her adorable daughter. Her father's reaction to the shocking loss, she is the last girl I will ever love.
Alexander J. Boik. Everyone just called him A.J. 18 years old. He, too, was just getting his life started. Family and friends posted this video on facebook have said he always brought a smile and a quick wit to every occasion. A.J. dreamed of becoming an art teacher. He was supposed to start art school in the fall.
Micayla Medek. She also had dreams. Three years away from a college degree, the 23-year-old said on her facebook page, "I am a simple, independent girl who is just trying to get her life together while still having fun."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was an outstanding shipmate. A valued member of our Navy team and an extremely dedicated sailor.
LEMON: Larimer had his future mapped out. A 27-year-old petty officer in the Navy, he was the fourth generation of a military family going back to his great grandfather who served in world war I.
Jesse Childress. Another military man. An air force staff sergeant. Friends say Childress worked hard by day, but liked to have fun at night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was a flag football team, he was always there to do it. He would go bowling every Tuesday night.
LEMON: On Friday night, he mixed work with pleasure. A comic book super hero fan, Childress went to the movies with air force buddies. They say he was fatally wounded when he dove in front of a female friend. It wasn't the only act of heroism that night.
Alex Teves. The 24-year-old Arizona native is described as being all about life. So, it's not surprised to those close to him that he would lose his life by save another. That night, he blocked a bullet from hitting his girlfriend, Amanda Lingren. She says there's no doubt that he saved her life.
AMANDA LINGREN, SURVIVOR: Every ounce of my being, he did. I wouldn't be here without him.
LEMON: Friends say he's also a hero by day. Alex had just graduated from the University of Denver with a master's in counseling. He had a passion for sports and an even bigger passion for working with children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would take time, mentor kids in the community who, you know, didn't have dads or were just really hurting.
LEMON: Matt McQuinn. The 27-year-old Ohio native and his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler had been dating for two years. His heroic act will be remembered by her forever. As the attack in the theater begin, he threw himself in front of Samantha.
DAVID JACKSON, MATT MCQUINN'S STEPFATHER: It's not surprising to me that his first thought would be her. And that's what a man does. He protects his loved ones. And I'm very proud of him. I'm going to miss him.
JANSON YOUNG, GIRLFRIEND OF VICTIM JONATHAN BLUNK: He laid up against me and he really told me, you know, what to do in that situation and saved my life.
LEMON: Janson Young says her boyfriend has always been a hero. At age 26, Blunk had already served five years in the Navy and hoped to one day become a Navy SEAL. Those close to him remember Jonathan's humor, spontaneity and love for his 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
Gordon Cowden. He also left behind two children that night. Their memories will be of a 51-year-old man who one friend called a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family. A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor.
Rebecca Wingo, a hard-working, single mother. Wingo juggled the challenge of working while raising two young daughters. After 11 years in the air force, the 32-year-old was back at the school studying to help foster children and friends say she did it with a smile that lit up the room.
Jessica Ghawi. Her smile has become familiar to many. She was the first name we heard when she was the first victim identified. Boyfriend, Jay Meoff remembers.
JAY MEOFF, BOYFRIEND OF VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: I guess, like a fire cracker, she was just exploding with personality and charisma and happiness.
LEMON: An aspiring sportscaster, 24-year-old Ghawi used the last name Redfield on the air. It was her fiery red hair and electric personality that made those close to her know she would be a star one day.
MEOFF: I've no doubt in my mind that she would have done it and she would have been someone that the whole world would have known for a different reason.
LEMON: But Jessica, like 11 others, will now be remembered because the unimaginable happened.
For those left behind, there is morning. A fight to find meaning and a search for some kind of peace. A search that drove Jessica Ghawi to write words that turned out to be prophetic. Words that in hindsight, have so much more meaning. Words she wrote after surviving another deadly shooting in a Toronto mall just one month earlier.
MEOFF: I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. I say all of the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. Every second of every day is a gift. I know I'd surely understand how blessed I am for each second I'm given.