"It's a small world," people always say.
I was feeling the same sentiment this past weekend when I traveled to Denver, Col. to attend my niece's wedding.
My 27-year-old niece, the flower girl in my own wedding 20 years ago, lives in the Aurora suburb of Denver, about a 15-minute drive away from the Century 16 Movie Theater complex where 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly shot and killed 12 innocent people, and injured another 58 more.
While enjoying the festivities surrounding my niece's nuptials, I couldn't help but think about another 27-year-old, one whom I have never met and, yet, unknowingly lived in close proximity to for several years in Crystal Lake: John Larimer.
Larimer, a 2003 graduate of Crystal Lake South High School, was the U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class killed inside the theater during the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises."
When the news initially broke about the Aurora shootings, who would have imagined that one of our own from Crystal Lake would be among the victims?
But it is a small world, as they say.
Within an instant, we here in Crystal Lake were connected with the massacre tragedy.
While in Aurora, my family and I took the time to stop by the movie theater, still blockaded by temporary fences and caution tape, as well as the makeshift memorial site that has arisen across the street.
I first went to the Century 16 Movie Theater to take a photograph "for future stories" which will inevitably come as court proceedings continue. I mistakingly assumed I would be the only person wanting a picture of the building, which was guarded by no less than four police cars sitting in the parking lot this past Sunday.
As I photographed the theater - which looks just like any other theater next to a shopping mall - car after car pulled up with occupants quickly jumping out to take their own pictures.
Across the street from the building, I was surprised by the number of people visiting the memorial site and the presence of more televsion news trucks. Mourners have erected 12 crosses - one for each victim killed on July 20, 2012.
From each white cross hangs a photograph of a victim. Mounds of candles, stuffed animals, personal trinkets, flowers and more photographs encircle the crosses. Twelve black buckets, filled with bountiful fresh flower arrangements that appeared to be tended to, were placed by each cross.
As I stood looking at John Larimer's cross - where someone placed a white navy cap on top - a young man approached and attached a small blue Teddy Bear on the cross. His companions, Navy personnel, explained they worked with John in Colorado.
"He was a great guy," the man said, fighting back tears.
Not far from the crosses hang banners and stand tagboard signs, which are filled with handwritten messages and more photographs. Additional candles and stuffed animals were piled in other groupings throughout the dry, barren lot.
While looking at all the gifts and messages, one realization struck me the most: how eerily quiet it was. With close to 75 people walking about - some crying, some hugging, some taking their own photographs - no one uttered a word, except for a whisper here or there.
It was evident the Aurora community is suffering a huge loss just as the friends and family of John Larimer have since learning of John's tragic passing.
Despite their sorrow, the citizens of Aurora continue to honor those killed or hurt that night in the movie theater - including John. The shooting of July 20, 2012, has wreaked havoc in so many lives across our country.... we are all connected by the sadness.
It is a small world, as they say.