Friday's shooting in Aurora, Colorado, horrifies on several levels: It happened in the confines of a movie theater. Victims thought the gunshots were special effects. James Holmes, the suspected killer, was a promising student.
But perhaps one of the most haunting aspects of the Friday shooting was watching a tragedy very similar to one that occurred thirteen years ago and only 20 miles away, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School.
In the days following the movie theater shooting, victims of the Columbine attacks reached out to mourners and victims. Anne Marie Hochhalter, who was paralyzed due to injuries sustained at Columbine, offered advice to the moviegoers, telling them not to look for a motive. "It's a waste of time, and it gives them exactly what they want," she said.
Coni Sanders lives in Littleton, Colorado. She lost her stepfather in the Columbine shooting and is now a forensic therapist. "There was a lot of support offered [by the Columbine victims community]," she says. "We've been down this road, and we hope that they find as much healing as we have through the community."
Because the Columbine shooting victims were tied together by a common high school, they were able to have a greater level of support from others. Because the Aurora shooting happened in a movie theater, Sanders thinks that it will be more difficult for families to band together. "Unfortunately, I think there will be less support," Sanders says. "I really think that for us, it was easy to get that communal support, and I'm hoping that these families find support in each other."
Dave Cullen is the author of the book "Columbine." He says that one of the mistakes made in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting was the scrambling to find a reason for the shooting before all of the facts had been analyzed, and worries that the same might happen in the case of the Aurora shooting.
"We're likely to misdiagnose [Holmes] by doing it way too soon, and we're also likely to go down the road of this imaginary profile that doesn't exist, thinking he's a 'loner,' he's an 'outcast,' all these particular things. That is not the profile of the killers," Cullen says. "There is no such profile." He guesses that the early reports that portrayed Holmes as antisocial stemmed from people who did not know him well, and, as Cullen puts it, "[already had] that script in their heads and [were] repeating it."