Aurora shootings: What should be done with theater now?
The company that owns the theater where the Aurora shootings took place is asking residents what it should do with the building. It is an important question for communities looking to move beyond mass shootings.
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In Columbine, in the Denver area, the library at the public high school where 10 students were killed in 1999 was replaced with an atrium. Similarly, the building in Ford Hood, Texas, where 13 soldiers and civilians were killed in 2009 was razed and replaced with a $16.5 million processing center for new recruits.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Aurora, Colo. shooting aftermath
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Likewise, the apartment building in Milwaukee where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered the majority of his 16 victims between 1982 and 1991 was demolished one year after the spree was discovered. The lot remained empty until 2011, when a building developer purchased it from the city for $500 and announced plans to divide it into private green space and a parking lot.
It is more rare when a building remains untouched following a massacre. At Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, officials reopened the school building where a gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in 2007.
The Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., reopened earlier this month after a gunman killed six people during a Sunday morning rampage one week earlier. A waist-high bullet in the door of the temple’s main prayer room was kept as a memorial to the victims.
“There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and it’s hard to say that one idea is better than another,” says Chuck Williams, an educational psychologist and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “What’s good is [Aurora] is asking the community. Whatever the consensus is, it’s what they should do, because it will allow the community to collectively grieve together as a unit.”
While the survey will inevitably receive opinions from outside the community, Mr. Williams says the city and theater chain should primarily heed the feedback coming from the people directly affected by the tragedy.
"Getting those stakeholders at the table and asking them what is best will help them address [the tragedy], acknowledge it, and make them able to heal and lead fully healthy and productive lives,” he says. “It turns a negative into a positive.”