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'Just too close to home': Aurora residents mourn shooting victims

Eric and Sophia Gettys of Aurora, Colo. help their children Gabriel, 4, and Gabriela, 6, with 12 heart-shaped balloons that they placed at a makeshift memorial near the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center on Saturday. The family had planned to go to a movie at another theater to get their minds off the tragedy but found it closed because one of the shooting victims had worked there so they saw it as a sign to visit the memorial and leave one balloon for each victim.
Eric and Sophia Gettys of Aurora, Colo. help their children Gabriel, 4, and Gabriela, 6, with 12 heart-shaped balloons that they placed at a makeshift memorial near the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center on Saturday. The family had planned to go to a movie at another theater to get their minds off the tragedy but found it closed because one of the shooting victims had worked there so they saw it as a sign to visit the memorial and leave one balloon for each victim.Marc Piscotty for NBCNews.com

AURORA, Colo. -- Twelve candles, a birthday card and flowers placed in popcorn boxes.

Mourners created a makeshift memorial Saturday across the street from a movie theater where 12 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack, with some shedding tears and sharing embraces as they grappled to understand the deadly assault on their community.

A birthday card with a photo of victim Alex Sullivan stood amid the stuffed animals and balloons. “Gone not forgotten,” read one poster. A group held hands in a circle and said a prayer, and a girl placed 12 red heart-shaped balloons at the empty lot.

As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo. early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie.
As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo. early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

“Our heart goes out to everybody. We grew up in the community here and it’s in our backyard. It’s just too close to home,” Shawn Quintana, 40, whose sister lit 12 white candles for the victims, told NBC News.

The memorial appeared a day after James Holmes allegedly attacked the theater after Friday midnight with four weapons and tear gas, killing 12 people and leaving 58 injured.

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Some motorists honked their horns at the well-wishers as they passed by along the large roadway across from the theater.

Terry Jackson, 50, his wife, Donna, 58, and their 20-year-old son brought a bouquet of yellow and white flowers to pay their respects. Terry said he felt “very angry” about what had happened.

“I’d like to say that I felt peace in my life but I don’t,” he said, elaborating that he was “just angry that somebody could come in and be this evil and cause this much devastation.”

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“How could life be so bad for him that he destroy(ed) everybody else’s life?” he added.

“It’s hard to find words for something you can’t understand, for me,” Donna said.

Gary Ford, 24, said the outpouring of well-wishers was helping him cope with the loss of his friend and mentor, Sullivan, whom he last saw a month ago.

“Strangers who’ve never met each other ever in life are now … coming out to pay our respects and it’s helping me keep my composure for my buddy with a lot of people being here,” he said. But “not being able to see him ever again is going to be kind of hard, it’s going to be really hard.”

Bradshaw said she knew their community would change after the attack. “We just hope for the best,” she said.

“It took the innocence of going to a movie away,” she added. “It would take a lot to get me to (go) back to a theater.”

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