Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Reader Shares Their Experience From The Colorado Shooting


I got an e-mail from Tim McGrath, a reader of the site and a writer/director/producer/actor who has been in Colorado filming an indie movie. Tim was inside the theatre when the shooting happened last week and this is his story that he wanted to share with everyone.


Hey Everybody,

For those of you I'm not friends with on Facebook (or don't check it like a certain brother I won't name), I wanted to share this with you. I wrote this for my family and close friends, but so many people have reached out I decided to share it with everyone. I'm learning the shooting really did affect a nation, not just those of us directly involved and our loved ones. My goal is that by sharing one story of what went on in the theatre and living with it since then, it will help everyone be able to process and better work through this incident. Hopefully for the better. I'm sending much love to you all.

Best,

T


Writers write. It's how I process.

The hardest part was that you just didn’t know anything. You didn’t know where the shooters were, how many, or how long it would last. A movie theatre, a very predictable place, had become a dangerous, foreign location. Every move seemed like a life or death choice, and that made it harder to make any move. But you knew it wasn’t a good idea to stay put, as that just made you a sitting target.

I have no idea how we ended up in theatre 8 instead of theatre 9. I’m in Colorado directing and acting in a movie I co-wrote. Some very nice producers really like the script and our ideas for what’s entertaining, so they are backing the project. Pretty exciting times. After a meeting with the cinematographer, I drove to Aurora with my cousin and co-director Ryan, and my friend and co-writer Tyler to catch the midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. We love film and Chris Nolan. Still do. We didn’t all have tickets for the same after-midnight show, but the theatre employee told us it didn’t matter which of the theatres we sat in as the theatre was adding showtimes as they sold out. So we chose 8.

I’ve been asked often about the details of the experience. They’re awful. In the fingerprint scene with Anne Hathaway, the gunshots started. The air in the theatre started to get smoky with tear gas, the emergency strobe lights started flashing and alarms and pre-recoded voices sounded as there were more gunshots. The lights in the room stayed off and Anne Hathaway’s gun battle on screen played loudly. People were yelling. Debris was falling on some and others were yelling to stay away from the walls where the bullets were coming through. Some people saw bright flashes with more gunshot sounds. We heard people were hit. As a group, the audience in the theatre began slowly walked toward the exits until the crowd stopped moving and started pushing back, as the people exiting were being shot. We stopped and looked around inside the theatre, not sure what to do, but not wanting to be trapped and easy targets. Someone figured out we could leave through the projection room at the top of the theatre. A lot of people didn’t think it was a good idea to leave. A few of us tentatively left the theatre into the balcony over the theatre lobby, hoping no one was waiting for us. We were lucky. We crawled along the balcony and down the stairs as we looked every which way for where the shooter or shooters may be next. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we waited, hiding on the ground behind the short railing wall, taut, and scared, for what we guessed was the right time to make a run for the door. We made a guess and made the run. Once we were outside, we ran for the car. Many people, both calm and crying, were in the parking lot. Along with a lot of chaos. We heard there were explosives rigged. And there was the possibility the shooting might happen in the parking lot. We couldn’t think of a better idea than making our way toward the car. So we circled as wide as we could to the other side of the parking lot and got in the car. Oddly, that walk felt a bit like being toward the back at a music festival, where it was more quiet, but a lot of commotion and people were milling about nearby. After we arrived at the car we started to drive around the back of the theatre, but we decided not to. This was good, because we later heard the back of the theatre was home base for the shooter. We left the lot through a side exit, and the police stopped us, asking if we had seen anything. We knew then they were just as confused as we were. We waited at the light for police cars to drive by us and back toward the theatre. We lost count after 45 police cars, ambulances and fire trucks from every city and county drove past us at full speed. As the adrenaline began to fade, tears made their way to my eyes, but didn’t stream down my face. We got home and waited for hours for any news. There was very little, other than a blogger with a police scanner. We got to sleep at 4, and our phones started buzzing at 6. We didn’t sleep much.

Each time I’m asked about the incident, I feel a pang of guilt, because comparatively, I got out easy. I had a sense of relief as we left the parking lot. Many people didn’t get that relief, so I feel guilty. They say it’s normal to feel this way, but this sure doesn’t feel normal. And so I continually process this in my head.

The mental image that has not left me since that night is when we were crawling down the staircase, as we neared the point where we’d have to make a run for the door leading to the outside. We knew we couldn’t stay, because if anyone came to the top of the stairs we were helpless, but it was tough to decide the best moment to run near a door where moments before a gunman was shooting people. I looked over my shoulder and saw Ryan and Tyler pressed along the wall. It is much, much more gut-wrenching than you would think, seeing your loved ones having to hunker down in hopes of being protected from a killer or killers. The most intense feeling I had the whole night was in this moment, and five days later, it hasn’t left my belly.

Lastly, a lot of people have asked what I have learned through this experience; is there any good that comes of it; or do I have any new insight on life. As a person who’s made his living creating movies, I’ve come to value an imagination and a strong belief system as the most effective tools to get anything accomplished. As soon as the pops began, I just started to imagine we would be ok. This mental work was an effort. My natural reaction was to be terrified. But that’s not helpful, so I just stuck with my imagination. Doing that brought with it a strength and calm in the midst of everything. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of love. And I had a raging energy in my belly and soul to protect Ryan and Tyler. As I’m sure they wanted for me. I don’t know my imagination helped us make it out alive and unhurt, but it helped me in the moment, and it has helped me in the moments since then, when my mind wanders to scary places. So I’m choosing to walk away from this in a way I think would make my grandpa proud. I choose to not be terrified. I choose to allow this experience and feeling in my belly to continually motivate me to be more of the person I want to be. I will continue to create. I will endeavor to inspire. I will treat people in the way they should be treated, regardless of how they treat me. I will wrestle with my dogs and make jokes with my friends. And I’ll give the world as much love as I have in my heart, because that’s what feels best to me.
####

43 comments:

a non a miss said...

Thank you for sharing your story Tim, glad you are okay!

Sarah said...

This made me tear up again. Thank you for sharing, I can only imagine what that experience leaves you with. I'm so glad you got to leave with your group.

alliwholovessomuch said...

wow. Stay strong.

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for this.

Redheat said...

Thanks for sharing, I still well up when I think about this tragedy and I'm a thousand miles away.

Chilie said...
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FSP said...

For me, this paints a great picture of what really happened. I've often wondered why nobody attempted to play the hero and try to take out classicjimbo. With all the commotion, smoke and strobes it had to have been utterly insane. Glad you made it out Tim and keep making movies!

goheels83 said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I am so glad you, Ryan and Tyler are physically fine. Someone was looking out for you that day. Your grandpa would definitely be proud of you. xx

MadLyb said...

I'm glad he lived to tell the tale. I can't imagine going through something like this. It's bad enough having CS thrown at you - that alone will disorient you, but this story also describes a lot of the confusion and uncertainty people were feeling. I wish all the best for Tim and everyone who had to go through this.

Bonheur said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Unknown said...

Bless you Tim! Stay strong!

A few people in 8 were wounded, one was a high school athlete, who was shot in the neck, but miraculously will be okay.

I have a bad feeling that piece of shit shooter, when reality sets in, will try to kill himself so he won't have to go through a trial or anything. Disgusting.

surfer said...

Thank you Tim. I'm sure your heart is still racing a million miles a minute, but someone was definitely watching out for you and your friends. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror and the fear, which must have been so overwhelming.

Stay strong.

Yndy said...

Tim is a friend-of-a-friend. Didn't know he was a CDAN reader too - but not surprising.
I'm sure his account echoes that of many who were not in theater 9. Since no one knew how many people were shooting, or why, or where exactly the gunman was - getting as far away as they could was the only sane option.
Makes you appreciate even more the bravery of our First Responders, who are expected to run *toward* the shooter.
Thanks for making your first hand account so accessible, Tim.
I'd already planned to see your film when it comes out. Now I'm just that much more excited about it.

angie said...

Tim, how thoughtful of you to share your story with us, and how grateful I am that you're alright. Wishing you much success in all your endeavors. xoxoxo

DJS said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you, your friends and the victims/families of this tragedy peace and strength.

Roman Holiday said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine what it must of been like for you and your friends! Wishing you much peace and happiness in the future.

Roman Holiday said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RJ said...

Thanks for sharing. You do a good job of describing the pure chaos of the situation. I'm glad you got okay!

RJ said...

Thanks for sharing. You do a good job of describing the pure chaos of the situation. I'm glad you got okay!

Ms Cool said...

Tim, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you had to go through it. You sound so brave and I bet writing this helped a bit to help with your grief.

Cake said...

Very cool to read a detailed and thoughtful account of what happened. God Bless you and all the others in the theater.

Maja With a J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maja With a J said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I can't even imagine how terrifying that must have been. I hope that guilt doesn't stay with you even though I sort of understand where it's coming from. I'm glad you made it out of there.

billybob said...

A million cyber hugs to Tim and everyone else affected by this terrible tragedy. An engrossing and very moving account of how the human soul reacts in all it’s primal strength.

MelTheLibrarian said...

As writers, you can only use your words to express how you really feel. So thank you for sharing this account with all of us and for reliving those memories again just so you can help others understand what happened that night. May all those affected by this tragedy remember that the world is literally praying for you and sending you all thoughts and well wishes.

noseygal48 said...

Wow so glad you are okay. I still can't believe this happened....still praying for all that we're a victim of this.

toldyaso85 said...

Thanks so much for the post, very insightful. I really really liked how he said he used his imagination to help him survive mentally. I just...I really cannot imagine that nightmare. Surviving it still can't erase that awful memory.

I read it aloud for my mom, and I couldn't even finish reading it because it just choked me up. I feel infuriated and devastated for the victims and their families, at an entirely new level.

Love his closing statement, amazing and very touching firsthand account.

OverIt said...

Wow-there are no words to describe how horrifying it was to just read what you went through. I was shaking as I read it. Its always so hard to move on and not have the guilt of why you lived and another didn't, but as creative and talented as you are, it seems like you are doing right by channeling it and not letting the second chance pass by you. I hope you keep us posted on your projects and bless you!

Betsy said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I think understanding how this incident affects a wide group of people helps healing. The media focuses on the most tragically impacted but so many have had their foundation rocked. Getting treatment after experiencing a psychologically traumatic event can lessen the long-term effects, but exactly what treatment is appropriate varies from one individual to another. The most helpful for me was EMDR. I hope you continue to recover from the experience.

smash said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

urban chaos said...

Full on tears here.

Tim if you happen to be reading this Thank YOU for sharing your story and imparting a closing message of positivity and love.
It's a poignant reminder for us to all take away from such senseless tragedy.
Many blessings to you.

Sadie said...

Thank you Tim - for sharing your story with us. I can only imagine :(

AuntJess said...

Tim, my heart is with you, Tyler and Ryan. When news of this story broke I was at State Convention for the American Legion. Know that many hard ass old military men shed tears for you and all the other survivors. Peace to you friend.

dia papaya said...

Tim,

Thank you for sharing your story about that horrible night. This was hard for me to read, but I forced myself to read it as an honor to you and the other people in theater. The nation is truly horrified by what happened. We want and need to understand so this won't happen again. I'm praying for all of you - survivors and victims - so the healing process can begin.

Sending you love, light, and hope! Love really is the answer. So glad you mentioned that part.

Hugs and Kittens!

O'Really said...

Tim, thank you for sharing your story. I live about ten miles from Aurora. I moved to Colorado about 2 years ago because I think it's a very special place. My heart is absolutely broken for everyone who was in the theater that night and for the people who love them. I write too but I can't even form a succinct thought, much less write a worthy sentence and I wasn't even there. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Thank you again for sharing your experience. I hope it helps your recovery.

OneGirlRevolution said...

In the face of such a horrible tragedy, I am so glad that you are safe and able to tell your story.

Wounds and scars are not always on the outside. I hope you continue to heal.

EGB said...

Tim, thank you so much for sharing your story, it gave me chills and tears, as it is incredibly moving. The imagination is an incredible thing, I think it is amazing that you are using yours to help you through this. Thoughts to you and everyone else who was there that night.

Kaizer... said...

An absolutely astonishing response to witnessing such tragedy. Very glad Tim and his friends were able to escape physically unharmed. Sadly, another reminder that the victims of this incident go beyond the 12 deceased and 50 injured.

Kingsland said...

Tim,
What a moving account of a horrific experience. You manage to turn tragedy into a life affirming goal....bravo your Grandfather is proud!!

Carolina Nulatienpo said...

i am so deeply sorry for your troubles. my heart goes out to all of you.

Seth said...

Thank you very much for sharing this Tim. Very impressive to still believe in humanity and life itself. Warm thoughts your way.

Pink_Palace said...

Thanks for sharing Tim. I had no idea people were shot through the walls! So glad you and your friends were not injured. My thoughts and prayers to you and all those personally affected by such useless violence!

Lelaina Pierce said...

I also didn't think of how this affected other theaters. Wow. It must have been so absolutely terrifying to not know what would happen next. Thank you for sharing your story and I'm glad you and your friends made it out ok.

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