The mass shooting that took place five years ago this month at the Pratt warehouse in Aurora is being commemorated by the Aurora Historical Society with an exhibit opening Friday at the city’s downtown facility.
On February 15, 2019, a disgruntled employee at Henry Pratt killed five employees and injured five police officers and one employee.
The Historical Society’s exhibit includes five wooden crosses made by the late Greg Zanis of Aurora to honor the five people killed in the mass shooting: Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner.
The exhibit also includes the association’s collection of memorabilia left by mourners in the Pratt area.
The annual exhibition at the Aurora Historical Society facility inside the David L. Pierce Center for Art and History, 20 E. Downer Place, will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 14 to 16 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 17.
John Jaros, Executive Director of the Aurora Historical Society, called the mass shooting five years ago “beyond belief.”
“This was probably one of the worst days in Aurora. To me, even though you see it happening on the news all over the country, it’s still hard to believe,” Jaros said of mass shootings. “You always think it’s not going to happen in your community. Even though it’s ubiquitous in this country, we’re now part of the brothers and sisters who are experiencing it.”
Jaros said “a community lost a little bit of its innocence” as a result of the mass shooting.
“Aurora fits the idea of ’Boston Strong’ or ‘Aurora Strong’ — as everybody does — and you try to rally around the victims’ families, law enforcement and first responders, and I think that’s what we did,” Jaros said.
Jaros said unwrapping the crosses for the display each year “is something we hate to do because it brings up those kinds of memories and emotions for me and everyone else, especially the families.”
“It’s an important thing for me to remember. We definitely don’t want to forget. “As time goes by, like everything else, people won’t remember much,” he said. “Family members will always do that, and it’s also important for those who are still in the area to have something to come and witness and have a place of remembrance.”
Mary Clark Ormond, former board president of the Aurora Historical Society, said memories of the tragic event remain strong “even five years later.”
“I continue to be moved by the loss, the senselessness, and the sadness of such a situation,” Ormond said. “I think about other shoots and there are some things that we, as human beings, don’t quite handle. “I am very happy both for the city’s dedication and for the Historical Society, which I am sure will continue to remember this event and those who lost their lives.”
Perry Slade of Aurora visited the exhibit Friday and said the tragedy is “almost as fresh as it gets.”
“What’s keeping it that way is that these types of events are becoming more typical in our society and guns are getting out of control,” Perry said.
He said he was “glad to see there is continued recognition, a memorial so to speak.”
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.