AURORA, Colo. -- Anne Marie Hochhalter, wearing a silver cross around her neck, sat in the front row of a vigil for the victims of the Colorado theater massacre.

Her connections to those wounded in the attack early Friday at an Aurora movie theater was closer than most.

Paralyzed in the 1999 Columbine massacre, the 30-year-old Hochhalter said she can offer a little hope to the victims' loved ones and the survivors.

"I would tell them that with time, it does get better. But it never goes away," she said.

Among the thousands at Sunday's vigil was Darius Harvey, 18, of Aurora, who was in the theater during the shooting and lost a friend in the massacre.

"I was there and I'm part of this community. I felt I should be here," Harvey said. "It's good for healing the community and I felt that it is very necessary for our state and community to know that our nation cares about us." He then joined the crowd in singing "Amazing Grace."

The vigil closed out a day of prayer and remembrance for the 12 theater-goers who were killed and the 58 others who were wounded by a lone gunman.

Congregations said prayers and sent out social-media appeals for neighbors who wanted to join in remembrance.

President Barack Obama, who visited victims' families and survivors, cited Scripture as he spoke at a hospital where some of the wounded were being treated.

The prayers came in different languages, but the message was the same – hope and faith in the face of unimaginable evil.

"You're not alone, and you will get through it," said the Rev. Kenneth Berve, pastor at Grant Avenue United Methodist Church and a witness to Friday's horrors.

Berve's 19-year-old stepdaughter Emma Goos was in the movie theater, and when Berve and his wife arrived to pick her up, they saw a horror they couldn't have imagined.

At another Aurora church, elderly members of an aging Presbyterian congregation within walking distance to the suspected shooter James Holmes' apartment joined in prayer, though none had ever met him.

At the church of the suspect's family in San Diego, signs inside asked for prayers for those in Colorado affected by the shooting and for Holmes' family.

As the sun set later Sunday, several thousand gathered for the vigil on an Aurora lawn to pray for the victims.

Mourners released purple balloons and cheered police officers who responded to the shooting.

Gov. John Hickenlooper looked choked up in his remarks after meeting relatives of the dead with Obama.

"It was almost like somehow God had come down and picked the most vibrant and alive among us and taken them," the governor said.

Hickenlooper read the name of each victim, with the crowd shouting after each one: "We will remember."

Several pastors spoke, including one who also prayed for "the conversion" of the shooter.

Natalie Berzoza, 30, of Denver and her friend Jacqueline Vigil, 29, both stood holding candles. "You don't think that many people are there for you until something like this happens," Berzoza said.

Vigil recalled the shock of hearing of the attack. "I had the overwhelming feeling," she said, "as soon as it happened, that I needed to go to a prayer service, go to a church, do something."

Columbine students who survived what in 1999 was the worst school massacre in U.S. history are reliving their own experiences. And they're banding together to try to help. On Facebook and by phone, they are reaching out to people who witnessed the attack.

Young people were victims and witnesses in both the theater shootings and the ones at Columbine. The Columbine survivors want those at the movie theater to know that the road ahead of them won't be easy.

"Similar to the graduating senior class from Columbine, they may soon find themselves surrounded by people who have no clue that they were involved in a traumatic event," Columbine survivor Ben Lausten wrote on a Facebook page for survivors of school shootings.

"Breaking down and crying for no apparent reason (which is perfectly normal!) is harder to do in an office, or a business, or in `normal' society," he said. "These victims have a challenging path ahead of them."

Another piece of advice: Don't waste time trying to figure out what motivated the shooter or shooters.

"It's a waste of time, and it gives them exactly what they want," said Hochhalter, who was eating lunch as a 17-year-old junior when she was shot in the chest and spinal cord on April 20, 1999. Even as the years pass, she said, she's no closer to understanding why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 11 classmates, a teacher, and then themselves.

"I don't think I'll ever understand," Hochhalter said.

But the Columbine survivors understand this: The Aurora survivors will need to talk. And they promise to listen.

"We know what they are going through, and we can help," wrote Michelle Romero Wheeler, a Columbine survivor who posted links to sites supporting people at the theater shooting.

___

AP reporter Thomas Peipert contributed to the story.

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  • Family members of the victims of Friday's mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., comfort each other, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., during a prayer vigil for the victims. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Family members of the victims of Friday's mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., comfort each other, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., during a prayer vigil for the victims. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • A woman carries a wreath, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., during a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • A group of friends with various connections to the deceased and wounded gather at a prayer vigil outside the Aurora Municipal Center in Aurora, Colo., Sunday July 22, 2012. The vigil was held to remember the dead and injured in the shooting rampage Friday at movie theater in in Aurora. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • In this overview, the Living Hope Baptist Church choir sing to start the a vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater, Sunday, July 22, 2012, at the Aurora Municipal Center campus in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Joe Amon, Pool)

  • Aurora Police officer John Bulman keeps an eye on the crowd during a prayer vigil, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • The sun breaks through clouds, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., during a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • A woman carries a balloon that says "Missed by many, forgotten by none," as she walks to a memorial display, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., during a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • U.S. Navy officers salute Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., after they left items at a memorial display at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • A man holds his head in front of a memorial after a pray vigil Sunday, July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • People hold signs of hope that feature the Batman logo as they attend a prayer vigil Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., for victims Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater showing the latest Batman movie. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • A man at a prayer vigil for victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. pauses after placing items at a memorial display, Sunday, July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Audience members pray, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Anne Marie Hochhalter, 30, bottom, and her friend Roxy Chesser, 30, second from right, attend a prayer vigil, held to remember the lost and injured in Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater, in a park outside the Aurora Municipal Center in Aurora, Colo., Sunday July 22, 2012. Hochhalter, a paralyzed victim of the Columbine High School tragedy over 12 years ago, and other survivors of the 1999 massacre reached out to people who survived the theater shooting. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Aurora shooting

    Balloons released by family members of the victims of Friday's shooting are reflected in the windows of Aurora City Hall, Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Aurora shooting

    Family members remember their loved ones Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Aurora shooting

    Family members remember their loved ones Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Aurora shooting, John Hickenlooper

    Gov. John Hickenlooper, center, bows his head Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Aurora shooting

    Cub Scouts carry flowers to a memorial display Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Aurora shooting

    The crowd listens to speakers Sunday, July 22, 2012, in Aurora, Colo., at a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting during an early Friday premiere of ┬"The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, AAron Ontiveroz, Pool)

  • Stacy Moriarty, center left, raises her hand as she she joins thousand in a unified cheer as Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a vigil, Sunday, July 22, 2012, at the Aurora Municipal Center in Aurora, Colo., for the victims of Friday's mass shooting a movie theater. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)