PeoplePaul McAleer

It's still there

PeoplePaul McAleer

I can see it from the entrance to Dillard's.

Among the polyester house brand slacks, the faux deep wood displays, and the slightly stale air of the department store I can look out the sliding glass doors of the entrance and see the Century Theater where people were shot and killed five years ago.

It's across the parking lot in the Aurora Town Center. It's not far. And it's open. I can see a steady stream of people, groups of teens and families, walking in and out of the theater. They continue on. The smallest ones, the youngest, may not even have a connection to it; it happened before they were alive.

There is no marker. There is no memorial. There is no plaque. There's no acknowledgement. The theater still operates there. The theater fully reopened just six months after the massacre, and you can sit in the same (remodeled) theater the victims did.

Nearly six months to the day after the shootings, Aurora's Century 16 was renamed the Century Aurora, remodeled and cleansed of bloodstained aisles, seats and hallways that marked the July 20 massacre.

The lack of memorial is troubling. There's been a lot of debate on just what to do, and no clear path ahead. A thoughtful editorial by Ray Mark Rinaldi suggests that this is due to a lack of a clear starting point: how do you condemn gun violence in a solemn and respectful way?

...They were just movie fans, really, not soldiers or civil servants. They died because they enjoyed Batman, not because they were on one side or another of a culture war. They weren’t victims of sacred suicide raids or genocide. They were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While Rinaldi suggests that another design deadline for the memorial should pass (in lieu of having a hollow and/or generic tribute), I think part of the problem is the lack of respect shown by the theater owners, Cinemark. Sure, they held a brief memorial on the night of the reopening and a few years later tried to get $700,000 from victims' families before public outrage forced them to withdraw that request. But not doing anything with the place itself – again, it's still open – is disrespectful. If you don't shut the entire place down (and they clearly won't), then close the theater where it happened. Put up a true memorial plaque inside the theater. Show some respect for the victims and their families.

It's not perfect, no. And yes, there should be some sort of true memorial; this isn't a substitute for that. But it is better than nothing.