Families of theater shooting victims find invitation to reopening ‘appalling’
AURORA, Colo. — The reopening of the Century Aurora Theater in two weeks is reopening a flood of pain for families of those killed in the massacre this summer.
The theater’s owner, Cinemark, is inviting relatives to a “special remembrance.”
But families of nine of the victims say the invite is a “disgusting offer.”
They say the invitation couldn’t have come at a worse time.
They say in a letter to Cinemark: “During the holiday we didn’t think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred.”
“That was a killing field,” says Sandy Phillips, about the Aurora theater site.
Her daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was one of the 12 victims who lay dead on the floor for more than 15 hours after the massacre.
And it’s where the theater’s owners are inviting relatives back on Jan. 17.
“I don’t care how they refurbished and redesigned it. It’s still the place where our loved ones were gunned down and murdered. It is a scene of carnage,” says Phillips.
The invitation came through email, in which the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance or COVA, says, “…the owner of the theater, would like to invite you and a guest to a special evening of remembrance…A movie will be shown following the remembrance ceremony.”
It goes on to say, “We understand this may be a difficult time for you. Counselors will be available at the theater if you would like to speak to someone.”
“There is absolutely no regard for our feelings and we keep getting battered and bruised by the very people who should be reaching out and caring for us,” says Phillips, about COVA and Cinemark.
She says the invitation was so upsetting, families of nine of the 12 victims, wrote a letter to Cinemark rejecting their offer.
The letter says, “Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling…We would give anything to wipe the carnage of that night out of our minds’ eye. Thank you for reminding us how your quest for profits has blinded your leadership and made you so callous as to be oblivious to our mental anguish.”
“We’re going to have to face a lengthy and painful trial. And then to have additional pain and suffering upon us, is just not okay,” says Phillips.
The families say they’ll use social media to ask other victims to ask their friends and family to honor them by boycotting what they call “the killing field of our children.”
Cinemark says it has no comment. COVA says it cannot speak on the issue because of a court gag order.