Aurora: Five Years Later, mementos from memorial serve as time capsule for families

Editor’s Note: Thursday, July 20 marks five years since the Aurora Theater Shooting.  As this milestone approaches, FOX31 has carefully chosen how to cover it without re-opening old wounds, and without focusing on (or even mentioning by name) the gunman. This is the second in our week-long series of reports.

AURORA, Colo. -- Five years after the Aurora theater shooting, a curator and student volunteers are still meticulously cataloging, boxing up and storing each and every item left by friends and strangers at a temporary memorial to the victims.

The memorial was erected outside the Aurora Century 16 movie theater in the days after 12 people were killed, and 70 others injured by a gunman at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

The volunteers are doing it, because each and every item is a time capsule from one of Aurora's most painful nights.

"I walked in here today and just instantly started crying because all of these people that I've never met are here you know, and they`re thinking about us," said Theresa Hoover, who recently read some of the notes being processed by a curator at the Aurora History Museum.

Words from strangers still comfort Hoover, who lost her son, A.J. Boik, 18, in the shooting.

"I still wake up some mornings and think that, 'Ok I gotta make sure A.J. is out of bed.' You know what I mean? And then I go 'errr... it`s going to be one of those days," Hoover told FOX31.

There have been a lot of "those days" in the five years since the shooting. And every day, there are brand new reminders.

"Driving down the street and seeing a building that we went to , you know, a Dairy Queen that we went to the day of the shooting before we went to the theater, you know, that`s something new. I had to work through that," Hoover said.

This is the first time in five years Hoover has seen the letters and keepsakes left outside the theater.

With the help of some University of Denver interns, it's taken Aurora History Museum curator Jennifer Cronk five years to catalogue and store each and every piece of the temporary memorial, to be saved forever.  And they're not even finished.

"You sort of have to separate yourself from it because it`s too hard to read all of the messages that were left," Cronk told FOX31.

For A.J.'s mom, these things are so much more than just faded ink. They're a promise that - with some help from friends and total strangers - she can get through this.

"Looking back on five years from today, I think I`ve really grown a lot and I`ve gotten a lot stronger," Hoover said.

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation has planned a Community Candlelight Vigil and First Responder Procession to honor those lost on 7/20/2012.  Community members are asked to gather at 11:30 p.m. on 7/19/2017 on the east side of the Aurora Municipal Building, 15151 East Alameda Parkway. The main program begins at 12:15 a.m., and at 12:38 a.m. there will be a moment of silence to honor the lives lost. At 12:45 a.m., Aurora Police and first responders end their procession and arrive at the 7/20 Reflection Memorial.