The Victims of the Aurora Shooting
On July 20, 2012, a deadly shooting transpired at a Cinema 16 theatre in Aurora, Colorado. This tragedy happened during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. A devastating total of 82 casualties were reported. 58 people received non-fatal injuries from gunfire, 4 from tear gas, and an additional 8 people were injured whilst fleeing the theatre. 12 people were killed. This post is a tribute to the fallen victims.
Jonathan Blunk, 26, pictured with his daughter. Jonathan Blunk was a father of two, as well as a Navy veteran. Between 2004 and 2009, Blunk had served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea. Blunk was killed while protecting his girlfriend, Chantel, pushing her beneath the theater seats. According to family and friends, Blunk had wanted, if able to choose, to die as a hero. And indeed he did.
Alexander Boik, 18. Boik’s dream was to become an art teacher. He had been accepted at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where he would have attended classes in the fall of 2012. Boik enjoyed baseball, music, and making pottery. His family had said that Boik was dating a young woman who was also present at the shooting. She fortunately survived. Boik’s family specified that Alexander was “loved by all who knew him”, and that he was “a wonderful, handsome, and loving 18-year-old young man, with a warm and loving heart”.
Jesse Childress, 29. Described by Air Force Captain Andrew Williams as knowledgeable, experienced, and respectful, Childress had been an Air Force cyber-systems operator. Childress had been based at the Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. Tech Sergeant Alejandro Sanchez, a co-worker and bowling teammate of Childress, said “He would help anyone and always was great for our Air Force Unit”. Ashley Wassinger, another co-worker, said that Childress “was a great person, fun to be with, always positive and laughing. Really just an amazing person, and I am so lucky to have been his friend”.
Gordon Cowden, 51. Cowden, a “true Texas gentleman”, was with his two teenage children the night of the Aurora tragedy. Thankfully his children survived the shooting, ultimately escaping unharmed. Cowden had his own business and also loved the outdoors. He was, as described by his family, “a quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor”. Cowden’s family went on to say that he “will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle”. Cowden was the eldest victim of the Aurora shooting.
Jessica Ghawi, 24. Jessica Ghawi, also known as Jessica Redfield, had only just prior to the shooting, written about surviving a mall shooting in Toronto. The beloved sports writer’s death came as an absolute shock to her brother, Jordan Ghawi. Jessica has been described by friends and colleagues as smart, outgoing, and witty. Hockey player Jay Meloff, Ghawi’s boyfriend, was hit very hard by her death. “140 characters could never do you justice nor could all the words in this world. Never wanted to fall asleep because it meant missing time with you”. Meloff had tweeted the previous words shortly after Ghawi’s death.
John Larimer, 27. Larimer was a Navy petty officer and the youngest of five siblings. When the shooting began, Larimer immediately rushed to shield his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek, his life being taken soon thereafter. He had once told his brother Noel that the best way to die was in the process of saving someone else’s life. John Larimer had immense pride for his country and will continue to be loved by his girlfriend, friends, and family. Adam Kavalauskas, a former friend and college roommate of Larimer, expressed that Larimer was “never selfish” and was “always serving others”.
Matt McQuinn, 27. On the night of the shootings, Matt McQuinn was with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother, Nick Yowler. When the shooting commenced, McQuinn and Nick Yowler attempted to shield Samantha with their bodies. The young woman was unfortunately shot in the leg, but was able to escape with her unharmed brother. McQuinn, however, did not survive. His stepfather, David Jackson, stated “I know he’s a hero. He and Sam were very much in love and planning their life together. I am sure they were thinking very seriously about getting married soon.”
Micayla Medek, 23. Medek was out with a group of about ten friends to see “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20. She was an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers and loved to hang out with friends. Medek’s aunt, Jenny Zakovich, described her as an independent-minded and sweet girl who rarely asked her family for anything. “This shouldn’t have happened to somebody like her,” Zakovich said. Anita Bush, the cousin of Medek’s father, has said that she hopes “this evil act…doesn’t shake people’s faith in God”.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6. Veronica was the youngest victim of the Aurora shooting. “She was excited about life as she should be. She’s a 6-year-old girl,” said her great-aunt. Veronica, an only child, tragically died on the operating table at a local hospital.
Alex Sullivan, 27. Sullivan was celebrating his 27th birthday with friends on the night of the shooting. His first wedding anniversary with his wife Cassie would have been just two days later. Sullivan was cherished by his family and friends, and was described as “just a big teddy bear” who gave great hugs. He was smart and funny, with a great smile, according to his loved ones. Sullivan was an enormous movie fan and a comic book geek, as well as a fan of the New York Mets. “He was a very, very good young man,” said Joe Loewenguth, Sullivan’s uncle.
Alexander Teves, 24. “Alex was a very wonderful, kind, caring person,” said Teves’ aunt, Barbara Slivinske, “He had a great sense of humor. At one point he grew his hair ten or twelve inches long so that he could cut it off and donate it to Locks of Love”. Teves died while protecting his girlfriend as the gunman attacked several movie-goers. He had a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Denver and was aspiring to become a psychiatrist. Alexander Teves is survived in part by his two younger brothers, ages 16 and 17.
Rebecca Wingo, 31. Wingo was working towards an associates of arts degree at the Community College of Aurora. She had joined the Air Force after graduating from high school. Wingo became fluent in Mandarin Chinese and served as a translator. Her father, Steve Hernandez, posted a FaceBook post saying, “I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man. My grief right now is inconsolable. I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable”. A friend of Wingo, Hal Wallace, said that she had “the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. She got prettier as she grew older”.
Other victims who survived, but received extensive lifelong injuries.
Ashley Moser, the mother of Veronica Moser-Sullivan, suffered a miscarriage not long after the shooting. She also lost her ability to walk as a result of many critical gunshot wounds. Moser will remain in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life.
Caleb Medley has serious brain damage as well as an eye injury due to a shotgun wound to the head. He requires a feeding tube and has severely impaired movement. Medley can no longer speak. After the completion of three brain surgeries, he was the last victim of the Aurora shooting to be discharged from the hospital.
The Community First Foundation collected over $5 million for a fund for the Aurora victims and their families. The Aurora Victim Relief Fund announced on November 16, 2012, that each claimant would recieve $220,000. On July 25, 2012, three out of the five hospitals treating Aurora victims announced that they would either limit medical bills or forgive them entirely.