Shooting victim’s emotional return to Aurora movie theater

Jason Sickles
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The Aurora, Colo., theater billed it as a night of “remembrance and reopening,” but did Marcus Weaver really want to reconcile with the place where he was shot and his friend killed six months ago? Even his therapist was unsure if he could handle it.

“In some ways I feel like I need to take a stand, but it might be painful, too,” Weaver, 42, told Yahoo News.

Not surprisingly, his emotions yo-yoed in the hours before Thursday night’s event. “I am up and down, a wreck,” he wrote on Facebook. “But truly feel I need to go on so many levels that I can't even explain.”

And so he did. Wearing a T-shirt bearing the name and image of his friend Rebecca Wingo, Weaver went back to the Century theater where Wingo and 11 others were killed when suspected gunman James Holmes opened fire during a midnight showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Fifty-eight others, including Weaver, were wounded by gunfire.

Weaver chronicled his return in emails to Yahoo News:

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I walked up to door very apprehensive, nervous and anxious. This guy wanted to take a picture with me, so I said ok. It turns out his brother had passed in the theater and he wanted to come and represent much like me. His brother is Matt McQuinn, he protected his family from gunfire. Amazing courage. It gave me courage to go inside.

It was so difficult. Tons of people, so Megan Sharp (his girlfriend) and I ducked in a theater and prayed. Then things seemed less, as the Lord became more.

Once inside Theater 9, where the shooting took place, Weaver was greeted with a big hug and smile from 14-year-old Kaylen Bailey. Theater 9 is now called Theater H and has remodeled seating and a new screen.

I had just prayed about and asked the Lord to give me strength to go through those doors. She was my answer, heaven sent.

The two old church friends were both in the theater on the summer night of the shooting. Kaylen’s heartbreaking 911 calls from inside the theater were played during Holmes’ evidence hearing last week.

Words cannot express how I feel about this little girl, Kaylen Bailey. I met her five years ago serving food to the homeless on Wednesday night. What a blessing. She made my night. A true hero.

The pair sat beside each other during Thursday night’s presentation, which featured dignitaries and local pastors.

Last night the shooter would have probably been upset to see all the things he tried to tear down have been built back up again. The carpet is different, the paint is new and the backdoor he went through isn't even there. He would have seen Kaylen sitting by me, giving me hugs and smiles and comfort. He would have heard her talking about a mission trip to Haiti on January 30 with Church in the City. ... We didn't even have time to talk about the 911 call she made that night or how hard it is to be in our shoes at times almost six months later.

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Afterward, Weaver shared stories and took pictures with other survivors.

This is a picture of Pierce O'Farrill, who works two blocks from me. He works for Denver Rescue Mission, an organization that I partner with professionally and shares a passion to help the homeless. He was shot in the arm, laid on the floor dying until paramedics came.

Then there was McKayla Hicks, who was shot in the jaw. She and Weaver were treated together by paramedics that night.

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She came up with her entire family just to hug me. She was happy to see me.

And Weaver was happy to see them.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Am I completely healed? No. But going back just proves one thing, evil will never triumph over good. I didn't realize how much I have grown personally until I sat back in that seat. I have changed physically (shoulder), mentally (PTSD), but my heart was renewed.