AURORA | When Butch Harper first heard the news of the Aurora theater shootings while watching television in his hometown of Pahrump, Nev., he cried.
Then, he knocked on his neighbors’ doors to gather hundreds of signatures and letters of heartfelt condolences, he made a plaque for Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, and finally hopped in his car to drive 800 miles over 13 hours to hand deliver the items Aug. 16.
“This doesn’t change anything, it just softens the pain,” Harper told Hogan in the lobby of the Aurora Municipal Center.
Harper, a U.S. Army veteran from the Nevada town of about 36,400 people, has been driving around the country delivering handwritten messages of hope to communities in suffering for the past three years, and often visits sick kids at children’s hospitals.
Through his efforts, he’s trying to encourage people to stand together and comfort one another during times of need.
“When something happens, (people) have to be very sincere and reach out to those involved and just say, ‘We’re here for you,'” he said. “If we don’t, what is the world going to come to?”
During the past four weeks since the Aurora theater massacre on July 20 that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, the city of Aurora has received thousands of condolence messages from people on all seven continents, Hogan said. Harper’s visit was particularly sentimental.
“To get an email is wonderful, to get a letter is fantastic, to have somebody deliver something from 1,000 miles away is over the top,” he said. “It’s emotionally touching, there’s no way around it.”
Hogan said the displays of support are helping the city recover.
“Knowing that people care helps us to get better,” Hogan said. “It’s part of that process, and it’s obvious people care … people in this world care, and that helps you heal.”
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.