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Remembering the Aurora theater shooting victims

Seven years ago, 12 lives were senselessly taken from this world. Please take a moment to remember them.

AURORA, Colo. — Seven years have passed since the tragic killing inside an Aurora movie theater.

Twelve people died on July 20, 2012 when the gunman opened fire during the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

RELATED : The 7/20 Memorial will be dedicated July 27

The following memorials were written by friends and family shortly after they found out about their loved one's death:


Credit: 9NEWS
Jon Blunk, 26, died protecting his girlfriend Jansen Young

More than steller! This is how Mark Kvidera, Jon Blunk's boss described one of his very best workers.

"[Jon was] one of the kind of guys that walks into the shop everyday with a big smile on his face and brightens the atmosphere,"

When Jon didn't show up for work at the small flooring company, it was so unusual that Kvidera knew something was terribly wrong.

Jon reportedly had moved to Colorado to start a new portion of his life. Jon attended the midnight showing with Jansen Young, his girlfriend who he had been dating since October 2011. And when the shooting started, Jon pushed Jansen to the ground and covered her with his body.

"Jon just took a bullet for me," Jansen says. She is certain she would not have survived without him being in the theater with her.

"Jon is the kind of guy that would save [someone]. It doesn't matter who is in harm's way, he is going to save them [and] protect them." says Kvidera about Jon sacrificing himself to protect Jansen.

Jon was formerly in the military and, according to Jansen, was planning to re-enlist.

Jon is survived by an estranged wife, Chantel, and two children who all live in Reno, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old.

Kvidera, seeking to do something to help, set up a Memorial Fund for Jon's children. If you want to donate to the fund, you can do so at any Wells Fargo location in Jon Blunk's name.


Credit: 9NEWS
AJ Boik, 18, dream of becoming an art teacher

Alexander Jonathan (AJ) Boik, an 18-year-old Gateway High School graduate, according to friends "wanted everyone to be happy."

A popular young man, his friends put up a facebook page to allow people to share memories and offer their thoughts and condolences. http://www.facebook.com/RememberAJBoik

Boik's family released the following statement the Saturday following the tragedy:

AJ Boik was a wonderful, handsome and loving eighteen year old young man with a warm and loving heart. He graduated from Gateway High School this year, where he had many friends.

He enjoyed his friends and family and always brought a smile and quick wit to every occasion. He was a talented young man who enjoyed baseball, making pottery and music. He was accepted at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design where he planned on attending classes in the fall. After completing college his dream was to become an art teacher and open his own studio. He was dating a beautiful young lady who was with him at the time and we are blessed that she survived this incident.

AJ was loved by all that knew him. We want to try and focus on the beautiful lives that were ended and not the evil that is responsible. This is a time for us to remember our loved ones and cherish the memories we have of them.


Credit: 9NEWS
Jesse Childress, 29, was an Air Force reservist who was serving at Buckley Air Force Base. He put himself in front of bullets to save his friend Munirih Gravelly's life

Air Force Reservist Jesse Childress attended the Batman midnight showing with colleagues from Buckley Air Force Base where he was currently stationed.

Much like John Larimer, a Navy Serviceman who also lost his life during the attack, Childress put his body between the gunman and that of his friend - an action the friend, Munirih Gravelly, is sure saved her life.

Jesse is remembered by those he worked with as simply a "good man." A man who would go out of his way to help out whoever needed him.

Jesse was similarly remembered by those who knew him in California. Former teachers and coaches used the very same words to describe him. Jesse was also fondly remembered by neighbors in Lake Los Angeles who say he was a quiet, but fun-loving person.

Jesse served as part of the 310th Force Support Squadron as a cyber-systems operator.


Credit: 9NEWS
Gordon Cowden, 51, attended the movie with his two daughters: then 17-year-old Brooke and then-16-year-old Cierra who were not physically injured during the shooting.

Gordon Cowden with his last moments left his daughters with words that he hoped would stay with them far longer than the horrifying events of the Aurora theater shooting.

"I love you! I love you both!"

Gordon will be remembered as a man with a great sense of humor, a man of strong faith and a father who absolutely adored his children.

Gordon attended the movie with two of his teenage children, 17-year-old Brooke and 16-year-old Cierra, both of whom managed to avoid injury.

Gordon was the oldest of the victims, at 51 years of age, and worked as a real estate appraiser.


Credit: 9NEWS
Jessica Ghawi, 24, was a sports reporter

Beautiful, passionate, vibrant, full of life, witty, an unforgettable smile and a wicked sense of humor are all things friends and family reference when remembering 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi.

Jessica loved sports, especially hockey, and she aspired to be a successful sports reporter. She interned at 104.3 The Fan and Mile High Sports Radio, two Denver-based sports radio stations - the morning show host of the latter recalled how much she wanted to help others, such as those victimized by the Colorado wildfires. For her on-air career, Jessica went by the last name Redfield.

Jessica's brother, Jordan, who flew to Colorado just hours after the shooting said in interviews he wanted his sister remembered for everything she was, and not the tragic circumstances which surrounded her death.

"I want people to remember that heart and remember the good things that she's done; remember that smile and what her possibilities, what her prospects, what she could have done in the future."

An active blogger and user of social network Twitter, it was only fitting that Jessica's boyfriend, Jay Meloff, would use twitter to express his emotions.

"Every experience in life was amplified beyond my wildest dreams with you"

Meloff is a junior league Hockey player out of Toronto whom Jessica had met over Skype while she was doing a story. He added the following, through another tweet.

"140 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."

140 being the limit to the number of characters you can include in a single tweet.

Having avoided, by minutes, the shooting in a Toronto mall, Jessica had survived an experience which gave her a unique perspective regarding how random acts of violence can impact the way lives are lived. As she was an avid blogger, we can do no better than let her words speak for themselves.

"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given." - Jessica Ghawi, June 5, 2012.


Credit: 9NEWS
John Larimer, 27, was a Navy serviceman who saved his girlfriend Julia Vojtsek's life (she was not physically injured in the shooting)

John Larimer went to see The Dark Knight Rises with girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek. So excited was John to see the movie that when hearing that people were dressing up, he stopped by a local store to buy a Batman t-shirt, mask and cape.

John's youthful enthusiasm was matched by his serious dedication to the US Navy, the service to which he belonged.

A superior officer, Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski spoke highly of John.

"He was an outstanding shipmate, a valued member of our Navy team, and an extremely dedicated sailor,"

Cmdr. Jakuboski spoke of losing John as feeling as if he had lost a son.

Julia Vojtsek avoided injury during the attack, a fact she attributes entirely to the bravery of John, who she says covered her with his body and was hit with bullets which she felt certain could have struck her. In a written statement, Julie said the following:

When the violence occurred, John immediately and instinctively covered me and brought me to the ground in order to protect me from any danger. Moments later, John knowingly shielded me from a spray of gunshots. It was then, I believe, John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me. I feel very strongly that I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness.

Whether serving his country or protecting those close to him, John will be remembered for his bravery, quick thinking and instincts.

He will be remembered as a hero.

John, graduated from Illinois high school, Crystal Lake South, and then graduated with a degree in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin and died at the age of 27.


Credit: 9NEWS
Matt McQuinn, 27, was killed in the shooting. He and his brother covered Matt's girlfriend Samantha Yowler's body during the shooting.

Famous for their elaborate Halloween costumes and fun-loving attitudes, Matt McQuinn, 27, and girlfriend Samantha Yowler, moved to Colorado from Ohio in November 2011.

Matt and Samantha are remembered by friends as a loving couple. Kellie Wall, a Target co-worker of Matt's described how he would bring Samantha lunch.

"He would bring her lunch all the time and sit there the whole time with her at lunch,"

And the couple's love was evident.

"I think they were just really devoted to each other, and they had the sparkle of love in their eyes when they looked at each other."

Matt went to the movie with Samantha and her brother, Nick, who also lives in Colorado.

When the gunfire started, both Nick and Matt covered Samantha with their bodies to protect her from the bullets. Nick miraculously avoided injury, Samantha suffered a gun shot wound to her knee and tragically, Matt was fatally shot.

Matt's stepfather told the Dayton Daily News he wasn't surprised that Matt would sacrifice himself for Samantha. Matt's first thought, he said, would be for his girlfriend.

McQuinn is from Butler Township in Montgomery County, Ohio. He was a graduate of Butler-Vandalia High School.


Credit: 9NEWS
Micayla Medek, 23, was saving up for a trip she wanted to take to India

Micayla, or "Calya" to her friends, was a 23-year-old "simple independent girl who's just trying to get her life together while still having fun" according to her Facebook page.

Cayla was the youngest of three children, but never stepped away from doing things her way. Cayla proudly attended the Community College of Aurora while working at Subway as a Sandwich Artist - and while she saved money for a trip to India, she refused to accept any help and showing her independence by paying her way through the classes she had taken.

Cayla loved fairies, Hello Kitty, and Beanie Babies.


Credit: 9NEWS
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, was the youngest victim in the shooting.

Veronica was the youngest of the victims of the shooting at the age of six.

Veronica was described as a sweet and intelligent young girl, who liked Disney princesses and was excited about life - as any 6-year-old should be. She had just started swimming lessons earlier that week.

The young are full of potential, and Veronica was no different.

Veronica was at the movie with her mother, Ashley, who was also shot multiple times in the attack.

Ashley, who was pregnant at the time of the shooting, remained in critical condition during the days following. Ashley continues to face challenges with paralysis. Sadly, her unborn child did not survive.


Credit: 9NEWS
Alex Sullivan, 27, was a bartender at Red Robin at the time of the shooting. Many of his coworkers attended that night with him. He was celebrating his 27th birthday.

Alex Sullivan, known as a movie buff, was celebrating his 27th birthday by going to see The Dark Knight Rises, tweeting an hour before the movie started that it was going to be "the best BIRTHDAY ever." He attended the movie with several coworkers, some of whom were injured during the attack.

Alex is survived by his wife, Cassandra. The following Sunday, July 22, would have been the couple's first wedding anniversary. Alex is also survived by his father Tom Sullivan, mother Terry Sullivan, and sister Megan Sullivan.

Alex is described by friends as a big man, in stature - standing a full 6' 4" - and in heart. His good humor served him well in his job as a bartender at a local Red Robin. In a statement released by his family, Alex was remembered as "smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family."

A statement made to the Denver Post by co-worker Derek Smith encapsulates the thoughts of Alex's many friends and family.

"Ah, man, I'm going to miss that dude, I really am."


Credit: 9NEWS
Alex Teves, 24, died protecting his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren

There are good people in this world and 24-year-old Alex Teves was one of them.

"That's probably the first thing [people say about him], how absolutely hilarious he was," Ryan Cooper said. He's known Teves since middle school in Phoenix.

The two went to college together and were really close.

"We weren't so much friends as we were more like brothers," Cooper said.

Friday, Teves went to the movies with his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren. The two were together for more than a year. They were in theater nine.

Lindgren can't go back to that night but says Teves saved her life.

"He just protected me. I'll just tell you he protected me," a tearful Lindgren said. "My baby didn't hesitate. I was very confused, and he didn't hesitate."

Teves' is the oldest of three children. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona with a degree in Psychology and more recently received his masters degree from the University of Denver in psychological counseling.

His Phoenix-based parents came to the courthouse Monday to watch the proceedings for the man they call a "coward."

"He was one of the best sons any man could have. I've been honored to know him," Alex's father Tom Teves said. "He loved these two ladies [pointing to his wife Caren and Amanda] more than anyone loved somebody. He gave up his life to save her life. As parents, we can say maybe in the back of your mind you think maybe he shouldn't have done that, but that never crossed our minds, because Alex couldn't have done that. [He] couldn't have lived with himself if he didn't protect her. He loved her so much."

Teves' father added, "You're talking about probably one of the best people on Earth, and he can't be replaced. He can't be replaced for our family. He can't be replaced in society. We're going to miss him terribly. We love him. We know he's in Heaven. We know he's going to be ok. We're the ones who're going to suffer."

Alex Teves' family released the following statement:

The Teves family is saddened by the death of their son Alex, he was an amazing son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson and hero. Alex Teves died in the movie theater attacks in Colorado early Friday morning.

He was an avid Arizona Wildcats football/basketball fan, an exceptionally loyal friend, and loving son. Alex was studying for a career in physical therapy at the time of his death. Alex was a true hero, shielding his beloved girlfriend from the gunfire during the attack in the Theatre. Alex's last act of heroism is a testament to his character, his selflessness, and unending compassion for those he loved. Alex had the heart of a lion but it was made of gold, always willing to help anyone.


Credit: 9NEWS
Rebecca Wingo, 32, had two daughters at the time of the shooting.

Robert Wingo decided there was no other way to tell his two young daughters that their mother died. So on Friday night, when he returned home, he told them the truth.

"[My youngest] asked, 'Daddy, what's wrong? Why are you acting so funny?' I said, 'baby, mommy died today. She was in the theater shooting,'" Wingo recalled on Monday.

Robert Wingo and Rebecca Wingo divorced in 2008 but remained close in large part due to their two daughters.

"We lived about four miles apart," he said. "Their school is right in the middle."

Recently, Robert and Rebecca developed the kind of friendship that had made Robert incredibly comfortable to be around his ex-wife.

"Rebecca was the show," Wingo said. "She often gave away her last dollar. She would do anything for anybody."

When they lived in Hawaii, he said, she came upon a feral cat in the jungle and decided to take it home.

"If you talk to people at church, she's the person who sits in the front pew. Nobody but the old ladies do that, but not Rebecca," Wingo said.

Their two daughters are ages 9 and 5. Wingo said their youngest is still having a difficult time processing the news.

"The way she's acting. She thinks there is going to be an end to daddy time and then it's going to be mommy time," he said. "That's what's really tough."

But he said he believes his daughters will continually remind strangers of what and who their mother undoubtedly was.

"They are confident, precocious, engaging little women, and a lot of that is because of what [Rebecca] poured into them," Wingo said.


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