Family of Springfield theater shooting victim set to dedicate memorial

The mother and brother of a Springfield native who was killed in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting will help open a memorial garden built to honor the victims.

Jerri Jackson and Eric McQuinn, family members of Matt McQuinn who was killed by a mass shooter in 2012 while watching a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” will attend a dedication in Colorado of the 7/20 Memorial Foundation Reflection Memorial Garden Friday night.

“It’s touching to me that they would go to this length to remember my son as well as the others and they are not just going to forget about him over the years,” Jackson said. “This will be a permanent reminder of what happened and honor those that were injured and lost their lives.”

“It does my soul good,” she said.

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McQuinn was among the first shot during the 2012 attack by James Holmes in a theater. He was killed while protecting his girlfriend from the bullets. Eleven others were killed in the shooting. McQuinn lived in both Springfield and Vandalia before moving to Colorado.

He was 27 when he died.

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation Reflection Memorial Garden has been in the works for a few years, Jackson said, and she is thankful that people worked so hard to keep the memory of her son alive.

“It is for those who lost their lives as well as the survivors,” Jackson said. “They had a professional artist that designed and built a monument that is in the middle and then along the pathway there’s a bench for each person who lost their lives.”

The memorial foundation’s website shows that many of its leaders are the family of victims and survivors.

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“I am passionate about this memorial because it is something positive and needed,” Tiina Marie Coon, a member of the 7/20 Memorial Committee said in a statement about Friday’s dedication. “Through the memorial, we will all have a place that is peaceful to reflect and remember.”

Jackson and her family was able to visit the garden earlier this year while crews were building it. She said its a special place.

“When we were there in May we were able to find out which bench was his and my family got to sit on his bench and it was almost like honoring him just by knowing that this is what they have done for him,” she said. “It was kind of surreal. They have been talking about it and now it’s actually happening.”

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The Friday dedication will be an important time for the Aurora community and her family, Jackson said, but she also hopes on visiting the site when there are fewer people around.

“We will be out there until Monday morning,” she said. “We are staying with a high school friend of mine and other than Friday night we don’t have any plans. But, I’m hoping to make it back to the garden when maybe its more peaceful and not as many people there.”

She said when she was there in May they were still building the monument and she looks forward to seeing it completed. The sculpture has 83 cranes, 70 for those hurt in the shooting and 13 for those killed.

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