Experts in mass shootings say the aftermath of the Aurora, Co., theater shooting offers a glimpse into what the New York Times calls “the arduous way forward for families and survivors after such events.” It took three years and multiple delays before the trial started in April. The victims' families and survivors got updates from prosecutors, as well as questions about their feelings. Would families of the dead support the death penalty if the defendant were convicted? Would a wounded victim testify? Could victims handle talking publicly about what they saw and felt? For a small knot of families, the trial has become a months-long vigil. The seats for relatives, packed during opening statements, have slowly emptied, but a handful of mothers and fathers attend day after day.
They sit on the right side of the courtroom gallery, the side with the half-empty tissue boxes, holding hands, taking notes. They are allowed to cry in court, but audible sobs are against the judge's rules. During a particularly wrenching moment such as an autopsy description or an explanation of a bullet's destructive path, they walk into the hallway, or the quiet room with counselors, therapy dogs and other victims' family members. About 400 people were in the theater that night, and others were in an adjacent theater whose walls were penetrated by bullets. Families of the dead and people who were seriously wounded received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a $5 million victims' fund. Those who were not injured but still jump at the sound of thunder that reminds them of gunshots, got nothing.