Aurora shootings raise specter of Columbine

AURORA, Colo. -- Littleton and Aurora are two Denver suburbs separated by about 20 miles along Colorado's dramatic Front Range. But they will be forever connected by a tragic history.

In a public park in Littleton stands the Columbine Memorial, dedicated to the 12 students and one teacher murdered at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, by two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Twenty-one were injured.

Aurora was the site of the rampage in the movie theater that killed 12 and wounded at least 58. Police have charged James Holmes, 24, with the deaths.

On a lovely morning Sunday at the Columbine Memorial in Littleton's Clement Park, nearly a dozen people gathered at a memorial to the previous mass killing to reflect on Friday morning's shooting in the movie theater.

"Another sad day for Colorado," said Connie Shank, 57, of Littleton, as she walked the memorial grounds. "I'm thinking about the victims' families and how lucky I am to be alive. I don't know what brought me here. . . . But I wanted to reflect on it in my own way.

"It's strange to have a mass shooting so close to each other," she added. "I hate to say this, but Columbine sort of hardened us. Made us stronger. We know we can get through anything."

Lizzie Vorachack, of Omaha, was in Nebraska awaiting her weekend trip to Colorado when she heard about the Aurora shootings.

She landed Saturday evening, and by Sunday morning, she was walking onto the dramatic grounds of the memorial, which opened in September 2007.

Inside is the Wall of Healing, surrounded by tall trees and colorful plants. Inside that is the Ring of Remembrance, which has the names of each Columbine victim etched in stone, with short biographies written by family members. A rosary, a Bible and necklaces were left by the wall.

"I feel compassion for my fellow man and I wanted to come pay my respects," said Vorachack, 35. "It's really sad."

Behind the memorial is a walking trail leading to Rebel Hill, where many Columbine students ran to safety as the shooting unfolded inside the high school.

The top of the hill overlooks a lake and allows a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains' Front Range.

Jim Renne, 59, of Littleton, briskly walked along the trail Sunday morning.

Describing himself as a person who is "always in deep thought," he said he often reads here and calls the healing wall a soothing "meditation garden."

He now wonders how Columbine and Aurora both happened.

The more the thinks about it, he said, the more he can't understand either.

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