A moving story arrived today as two of the survivors of the terrible Aurora, Colo., shooting that left 12 people dead at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" have spoken out about their recent return to the theater to finish watching the movie.
"It was vitally important to go back as soon as possible to the movie theater and finish watching 'The Dark Knight Rises.' The shooter's intent was to cause fear, injury and death. We escaped injury and death," Jennifer Keavey Lader wrote for The Daily Beast. "But we both refuse to let fear consume us.
"If we let fear overtake us and prevent us from living bold, authentic lives, the shooter — and other murderers like him — wins."
Lader and her husband Don were among the hundreds of thousands of movie fans who turned out for midnight showings around the country on the night of July 19. Describing themselves as "self-professed movie buffs," the Laders were just settling in for their moviegoing experience when they noticed a man enter the theater through the emergency exit. Moments later, the shooting began.
Both former Marines who served in Iraq, the Laders immediately recognized the sound and smell of a tear gas cannister being thrown into the crowd. Their military training kicking in, they hit the floor and moments later made a dash to the exit during a break in the firing, stopping in the parking lot to help a panicked mother and her children escape the terror.
It's a night nobody will ever forget, but, for the Laders, it was one they felt they needed to relive as soon as possible.
"Because of our prior military experience, we've gone through all the problems that come along with being shot at before," the Laders wrote. "We've both been deployed to Iraq. And we learned the hard way that ignoring mental trauma or getting inadequate treatment for mental trauma can be just as traumatic as a physical wound. Later in the morning, about six hours after the shooting, Don and I knew we had to go talk to someone as soon as possible. Our therapist encouraged us to go see the movie again, in order to disassociate."
And so they did just that. Not only did they see "The Dark Knight Rises" in its entirety, they ended up returning to the theater for a third viewing in order to accompany the family they helped to safety. "Don had made a promise to their teenage son, that if he wanted to go back and finish the movie, he'd be right there beside him."
For more on what you can do to help the Aurora victims, head to iTunes and download the new track "Aurora" by "The Dark Knight Rises" composer Hans Zimmer. All proceeds from sale of this song will be donated to the Aurora Victims Relief Fund.