I think in all the world there is no more dirty, decayed, disorganized, and beautiful memorial. Sitting on an empty dirt lot between the bus depot and the Century 16 theater, it is a memorial entirely of the people, immune from both government sanction and support.
A memorial that echoes both the place and the times. The people of Aurora are poor and rough edged, used to living with bullets and danger. The offerings too are poor, but heartfelt. Flowers and old stuffed animals, piled waist high and rotting in the boiling sun and nighttime rain.
It's also, in its way, a very modern memorial. In that everyone felt a right to add their own contribution to it. It's sectioned off by an unspoken understanding. The candles section, the symbolic graves section...And in each section people add the objects that represent their own contribution to that theme or lost friend. There are signs for well wishing, and interestingly they follow the same rules as a Facebook post, with people commenting on things written by those before them.
Sitting just two blocks from where I live, I've seen different things every time I walk by there. Once a man pacing back and forth with a massive cross draped over his shoulder, carrying our sins in the manner of Jesus. Another time I saw a man facing East towards Jerusalem, blowing a mighty horn that could be heard across the dawn. Once a man who looked like he could stare into the barrel of a gun without blinking, weeping with unbearable loss.
But there are three things you will see there every day, from dawn to dusk. Mourners, visitors, and photographers.
I'm not sure how I feel about that last one. Whether we are exploiting the pain of others, or sharing the beauty of this outpouring of caring by strangers. But if it means more people get a feeling for this amazing and temporary creation, then I think it is worth dealing with the ambiguity of it.
© The Areographers