Five years ago, the lives of countless people in our community changed forever.
Twelve people were killed and 70 others were wounded. All they did was go to a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012.
We asked some of the victims for letters they were willing to share about their thoughts, experiences and messages of hope five years after this unspeakable act of violence.
Farrah Soudani was shot inside of Theater 9. Her friends had to hold her insides in while they waited for first responders.
“I can’t say that I wish my life was the same as before that night. As much as I wish it didn’t happen to the people that I love, I’m glad that I experienced it with the people I did. I would have never had a better support system and not have healed as I have, as well as meeting so many wonderful people who I now call my family … survivors, nurses, doctors, a few lovely reporters and first responders.
An unmeasurable love and appreciation for life, adrenaline and adventure. To be able to still enjoy every sunrise and sunset is a gift. I’ve made a new tradition of going skydiving every year, either for the anniversary or for my birthday.
I don’t believe in coincidences, never have and never will. I had no idea I would end up in Hawaii for the 5th anniversary. I carry all of my loved ones in my heart and spirit – especially during this time. Life is as beautiful as it is unfortunately cruel, but without pain, we cannot fully grasp, nor appreciate, compassion and love.
Every day is a chance, every day is a choice, every day is a gift to never take for granted.
Smile as often as you can. Trust often, love hard, live free.”
Stefan Moton was left paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot in the spine inside of Theater 9.
“My name is Stefan Moton and I got shot in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012 when I was 18. Life has gotten better for me over the years because of my mindset on life. Bad things happen, but it’s your choice to choose happiness, sadness or being mad.
I choose to be happy and to keep growing and being positive daily, because one day, I want success [and] to show people you can be happy on your worst days.
I’ve been going to the Chanda Plan for acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage, and SCI Recovery for physical therapy every week. I’m grateful to have to do that and be positive around people.
I just want to thank everyone who has supported me through the darkest days and I promise my brighter days are coming soon. God bless you all!”
Eugene and Kristin Han
Eugene and Kristin Han were inside the theater on July 20, 2012. They got married exactly one year after the shooting. Eugene was shot in the knee and the hip, and they sprinted from the theater when the shooter’s gun jammed.
“As we are quickly approaching on our four year anniversary of marriage, we sit back and think about all that has happened.
Eugene and I have been very blessed with everything God has given us. We continued to go to the movies, however, not as often as we did before the shooting.
Everything was our normal life of being married, getting to know each other as a married couple, going to work, hanging out with friends and living life to the fullest.
Last April, Eugene and I decided to sell our first home as a married couple. With that came a lot of work -- we wanted to fix the house up before we sold it.
My parents were able to come and help us sell everything that wasn't of sentimental value to us. If we didn't sell it, we gave it to families and others who needed it more than we did. Eugene’s family was able to help us with the painting and the handy work of fixing everything. We were able to sell our house for more than what we were asking for by God's grace. It went to a wonderful family.
Eugene and I then moved in with his parents, who welcomed us with open arms. Eugene and I didn't want to just buy another house, we wanted a home, something that one day we could start our family in. We weren't in any big hurry to buy another home so we paid everything off and went on a vacation to Mexico with some family and friends for a memorable vacation.
I was able to meet some of Eugene's family that wasn't able to make it to our wedding. They took us everywhere. It was a vacation that I will never forget. We went on one of the longest ziplines which was also on the Amazing Race show.
Shortly after our vacation we decided to start looking to move when we agreed to build our home, so we started the paperwork and had an estimated move in date. For me it was so exciting to watch the step by step process of my house being built.
About month or so after we started the paperwork on our new home we found out that I was pregnant -- not something we were planning but God had other plans for us. We were very excited that God had so much planned for us in one year.
We moved into our new home at the end of February and our beautiful baby girl was born mid-May.
2017 is only halfway over however. We can't wait to see how God will bless us in the future, as well as watch out daughter grow and become a beautiful young woman one day. God is good.
Ryan Lumba worked at the mall near the theater at the time of the shooting, and was shot multiple times. During the trial, he said doctors had to remove part of his small intestine, and that eating normally is difficult.
Dear Miss, Mr., or whoever decides to read this:
I don’t know how to start this, but I figured why not write this letter. My name is Ryan Lumba and I am a survivor of the Aurora theater shooting. Thanks to God and many others, I was given a second chance. I was able to walk, run and jump again.
I was given another chance to be around my family and friends. I was able to see the world again – the good, the bad, the ugly and observe everything around me.
I was able to feel things and given another opportunity to realize what’s important to me.
In the past 5 years, I was able to go to college. I was able to make new friends and get an education. I was able to meet lifetime mentors. I learned how to be a leader. I Was able to interact with others and figure out what was important to me. I was able to enjoy five years of cherishable moments. I am truly thankful.
With this second chance, I was able to overcome my grief, learn from past mistakes, and grow from them. Day by day, I am realizing why God has given me a second chance.
I don’t know how to say thank you to everyone, especially to every. Single. Individual. I don’t even know what to say …
To all the strangers that donated towards the victim fund, that wrote me letters, that hosted fundraisers for me and my family –
-Steve Smith (National Football League WR)
-Dr. Glenn Gravelle
-Jennifer Samuel, Sally Peang, etc …
-I don’t know everyone’s name that donated, otherwise this list would continue!!!
And of course to all my family and friends who continue to support me to this day after 5 years – THANK YOU.
I’ll never forget it! And I’ll make sure to not take this second chance at life for granted. Thank you God.
I hope to serve my family, the community and then eventually the world to make it a better place.