aj boik

2 years ago today my life changed. Everything I knew about the world shifted. Before July 20th, 2012, whenever I saw a school shooting on the news, I felt sad and I thanked whoever that I had never felt that pain. And on that day, that all changed. I woke up to my aunt telling me that there had been a shooting at the movie theatre in the town where I grew up and still live in. It was early in the morning, so the words that she said didn’t register in my head until about an hour later when I got a call from a friend asking if I’d heard anything from our friend AJ, who had been at the theatre that night. This is where fear struck me. I hadn’t heard from AJ, he and I weren’t super close, we’d get together and smoke weed and cigarettes in a mural friends car during lunch, or good off in the band room when our director wasn’t there, or we’d hang in a group of mutual friends every so often, but something felt very wrong and all I could thing about was “what if he is dead and nobody knows?” I got several calls that day asking if I had been to the theatre that night, as many of my friends had been, as well as a good portion of our football team (whom I know most of and am friends with) I didn’t know how to feel. I drove back down to aurora for a vigil that was being held across the street for the victims, none of whom were identified yet. I remember standing there in a swarm of my teachers, friends, and total strangers swarmed by news crews making a spectacle out of our grief and terror. My family decided to leave halfway through, as we were walking down to our car a reporter came up to us with a camera, my dad lashed out yelling at him to “put it the fuck away or I’m going to break your fuckin jaw” yet the asshole still didn’t break his shot of us because he “didn’t care it’s his job” that enraged me. I flipped him off the rest of the way to the car, tears of anger, sadness and fear streaming down my face. That night we all sat around our computers and tv waiting to see if there could be a chance that AJ was one of the in identified people in the theatre but praying so hard that he was just in a hospital and nobody had ID’d him yet. But then the news came. Victim after victim was identified and when the name Alexander Jonathon Boik came up, we fell apart. My friend had been murdered. He was 18, getting ready to start his first year of art school, and so ready to take the world by the horns. But because one crazy asshole got ahold of weapons that no civilian should have access to, his life was cut short. I love and miss you everyday, AJ. No matter what, I’ll always put time aside to make sure that wherever you are, you know that all of us are thinking about you. Party on, Brother.

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been two years since the thing that nobody thinks will happen to them, happen to their community, to their city - happened. Sometimes it seems like a distant memory; a wisp of a nightmare, or a cruel joke played over and over in the back of your mind. And other times, it’s a sharp reality that makes you wake up in a panic in the middle of the night, with the same ball of empty, painful fear in your chest as if it just happened yesterday. But no matter how long it’s been, this is something that always sticks with you. Something you grow stronger from. Some things will never be the same, like how passing the theater always brings thoughts and memories of that terrible night. How twelve people are never coming back to their families and loves ones. How how countless other dozens of people were hurt and scarred, both physically and emotionally. And how I will never be able to wear purple without thinking of AJ.

AJ. You were a bright beacon of light in the life of everybody you touched. I can’t remember a day you weren’t smiling, a day you didn’t crack jokes, a day you didn’t make everybody else around you a little cheerier. And while you’re not here now, you still give us reason to smile and laugh; to gather and remember the beautiful life you had. Your abundant future was unjustly taken away from you, but that should just motivate the rest of us to live our lives in your footsteps - to the fullest, and to the happiest. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could have been in your spot so you’d still be here today, but that’s a wasted thought on history that can’t be changed. Instead, you will be someone to always remember. We live with you in our hearts, AJ, and we love you.