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Aurora Shooting Survivor Focuses On 'Positivity'

Jul 23, 2012
Originally published on July 24, 2012 2:52 pm



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's hear some of the sounds from last night in Aurora, Colorado. That's where thousands of people gathered to remember victims of last Friday's shooting. Twelve people were killed. And the explosives rigged in the suspect's apartment suggest it could have been far worse.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Family and friends of the shooting victims slowly walked out of Aurora's Municipal Center, past a local gospel choir, and into chairs assembled on the main square.


KAHN: The thousands who lining the square broke into thunderous applause.


KAHN: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper asked the crowd to say we will remember as he read the names of each of the 12 people who died in the assault.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We will remember.

HICKENLOOPER: Jessica Gowee.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We will remember.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We will remember.

KAHN: Speaker after speaker, including Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, said this tragedy will not mark their town.

MAYOR STEVE HOGAN: It is the innumerable acts of kindness, love and care for our neighbors that defines who we are.


KAHN: That was a similar sentiment President Barack Obama touched on as he visited with victims of the shooting and their relatives at the University of Colorado Hospital. Mr. Obama made the short stopover on his way to campaign events on the West Coast. The president said he told the families that he knows the shooter is getting a lot of attention now, but that is not the way it will be for long.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy.

KAHN: And that's what 22-year-old Stephen Barton says he's focusing on, all the good people who helped save his life, who got him to the hospital and who've brought him food, magazines and best wishes while he recovers at the Medical Center of Aurora.

STEPHEN BARTON: Despite this guy's best efforts, you know, he still wasn't able to stop this - the positivity and the support that this community has given.

KAHN: Barton isn't from Aurora. He actually arrived here that Friday afternoon. It was the latest stop on what has been so far a 2,000-plus mile cross-country bike trip with a friend. The day's ride went well so they decided to go see the midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

BARTON: You know, of all the theaters I mean in the country, we found ourselves in Theater 9 in Aurora.

KAHN: About 15 minutes into the movie, Barton says, the shooting began. He never saw the gunman, just the flash of his gun. Barton got hit in the neck, then his face and arms. He fell to the ground. He says he remembers hearing his friend calling 911 and others screaming in pain. When the shooting finally stopped, he started imaging the gunman reloading and going after the injured, that's when he says he really got scared.

BARTON: Because there wasn't really like any clear way to escape, just because he, you know, he had a pretty good position and I found out later he had a lot of guns and ammunition.

KAHN: The suspected shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes was well armed. He had four weapons, including a rifle and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition - all purchased legally at local stores and over the Internet. Holmes also rigged his apartment with dozens of explosive devices and trip wires. It took police most of the weekend to safely defuse nearly 30 homemade bombs.

Holmes makes his first court appearance this morning. Barton says he doesn't let himself think much about the shooter.

BARTON: I guess I've chosen more to focus on like, you know, my own recovery and how, you know, I can take some positive out of, you know, this very tragic experience.

KAHN: That positive, he says, is that he's alive and recovering - thanks to the people of Aurora.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Aurora, Colorado. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.