A post from Facebook “The Dark Knight Rises (Or At Least That’s What I’m Told, I Was Interrupted By A Douchebag With Guns)”
In Aurora, Colorado a crazed gunman entered a theater during the midnight showing of The new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, waited a few minutes, went out through the emergency exit, grabbed his guns and tear gas and opened fire on the movie goers inside, killing 12, and injuring 50 others physically, and everyone in the theater mentally. I am not writing this blog post to talk about that crazy asshole though. I am writing this to tell you all about my friend. She attended the movie, with her boyfriend, and was shot several times, the tear gas landed right by their feet, and that, as it turns out, is what ended up saving them both, because Carli and Chris are former Navy, they knew what the gas smelled like, and they knew right away the gas wasn’t some special effect the theater was putting on, so they high tailed it out of there, and Carli got shot in the process.
This is a recap of the events that took place at the midnight showing of Batman from Carli, and her boyfriend Chris. This is a heart-wrenching story of survival, and I for one am happy as hell they survived this ordeal. Chris Townson is the author of this piece.
The Dark Knight Rises (Or At Least That’s What I’m Told, I Was Interrupted By A Douchebag With Guns)
So it’s Thursday and I’m totally stoked. “Why?” you might ask. Because it’s new Batman movie time, that’s why!!! I’m not saying I’m the superfan or anything, but let’s just say I own a shirt at least. Or, I did own it; I’m not sure where it is right now. The last time I saw it was covered in blood and teargas, and it was being shoved into an evidence bag along with my pants and boxers and shoes. But I’m getting ahead of myself now. Let’s go back a couple hours, shall we?
I started my day with a stretch and a trip to the computer to see if it was even possible to still buy tickets to the midnight premiere of the new Batman. Sure that my ticket-purchasing plans would be foiled by a “sold-out” message, I logged into Fandango and was pleasantly surprised to see that I would have no problem acquiring two tickets. One for myself, and one for my girlfriend Carli who is the absolute light of my life. Carli also happens to be amazing in that she is a Batman fan as well. She also has a shirt, as well as earrings and boxers (so one wonders who the real fan is…).
Like every time I go to see a movie, I try and insist that my roommate and best friend Jeremy comes along. Almost any other time he would have jumped at the opportunity (we just went to the midnight premiere of “Ted” a couple weeks back), but one of his buddies from New York had just arrived and he was a bit tired from the trip. So, Jeremy decided to stay back with his friend and not go to the movie. I feel like there’s a lot of foreshadowing going on beneath my fingertips right now.
That whole rest of the day seems pretty insignificant, so I’m just going to skip ahead to the end part. I know it’s what you really want to read, so I may as well get on with it. It’s not going to be easy for me, but luckily my puppy (Nibbler) is sitting right next to me and giving me the okay.
The movie started at 12:05 so around 11:15 we decided to gear up. I donned my Batman shirt and hat, while Carli strapped on the coolest Joker shirt I’ve ever seen. It was from the 80’s and was given to her by her father and held an irreplaceable sentimental value to her. The last time she saw the shirt it was being cut off her body in the back of an ambulance so the paramedics could have easier access to her many gunshot wounds. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
We decided to make a pitstop at the nearest Shell station to stock up on candy and sodas for the show. I grabbed a one liter of mountain dew, and a bag of sour-patch kids, while Carli grabbed one of those new Arizona hippie teas along with a bag of sour gummy worms. Our total came out to seven dollars or so, which compared to the guaranteed twenty dollars I would’ve spent on popcorn and a soda seemed like the logical choice. Everything except the sour patch kids went into her purse, while I stuffed those delicious treats into the right cargo pocket of my white Quicksilver shorts. Those were a nice pair of shorts. I really wish I still had those shorts. We then began the four mile or so drive to the Century 16 Theater, located just outside the Town Center of Aurora Mall. This had been our theater of choice lately, once we discovered that the theater we were going to before was a total yuppie magnet and was charging us literally double the price to see the same movies.
I turned left onto Sable Street, which is the road I use to get to the mall. Much to my dismay (at the time) there was some ridiculous night construction going on, and our progress was weary. The road I meant to turn into was blocked off, so I took the lords name in vain and continued following the orange cones. I really hoped that the next turn wouldn’t be blocked off because then I would have to do some recalculating, which is sometimes not my strong suit. I’m slightly directionally challenged at times, and this was most definitely one of those times. Luckily there was an opening for that street, with a police officer standing in the middle of the road. Stuck on traffic duty, tough luck for him. I would see that guy again in about a half hour and I would be extremely grateful to him for getting stuck with that bum assignment.
As I pulled up to the theater the first thing I noticed was all of the cars in the parking lot. There were so many, and I was reminded of when we came here months ago to see the premiere of “The Avengers”(yeah, we go to a lot of midnight premieres on Thursday nights. What’s your definition of “grown-up?”) I didn’t even bother trying to get a close parking spot, so I wheeled my Camry on over to the boondocks section of the lot, way over on the left side where parking was still ample. After getting out and stretching, we joined hands and began walking towards our fate, all the way jovially exclaiming “Batman! Batman!”
The place was packed! There weren’t all the costumed people like we saw at Avengers, but everyone had definitely turned out to see the movie. I noticed the theater had added two showtimes of the movie, so they were now playing Batman in four theaters! The times were staggered about four minutes apart. There was a 12:01, 12:05, 12:10, and a 12:15 I think. We had Fandangoed tickets for the 12:05. The theater was so packed that they actually had an individual line for tickets purchased online. I’d always known about the Fandango machines but, call me afraid of technology, I’d always steered clear of them and just purchased my tickets at the counter from a human being. But we stepped into the online line all the same.
When my turn came for the machine, I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed. A lot of times I totally feel like John McLane in that fourth Die Hard Movie: “an analog man in a digital age.” But, there was a nice manager-looking guy standing there for people just like me. He had on a tan suit, and looked very much like some sort of secret service agent with his little radio receiver in his ear. He explained that I simply take the card that I used to purchase the ticket online and swipe it into the machine. I swiped my card, and out popped two tickets easy as can be. I was actually a bit startled by how simple the process was. I had heard of this phenomena before, but I’m just really stubborn and stuck in my ways some times. For instance, I will never ever purchase a kindle or an ebook, or any other form of book that isn’t made of paper. Now I’m getting distracted, but I don’t apologize to you.
We didn’t need to stop at the concession stand, thank god, but we did need to stop at the bathrooms first. Ever since I was very young and my father took me to see “Wayne’s World,” and got frustrated when we had to go to the bathroom halfway through the film, I have always gone to the bathroom before I see a movie. Whether I have to go or not, I make something happen. That was the case this time, and I finally strained out a bit of lemonade. I looked in the mirror on the way out, but I didn’t wash my hands. I don’t know why that’s important, and it’s kind of gross, but this is my recollection not yours. While waiting for Carli to finish her bathroom quest, I stared at the poster for that new movie about the neighborhood watch who discovers aliens or whatever. I was genuinely curious if the fourth guy with the curly hair even had a name, and it turns out he does. I just can’t remember it, so I guess it doesn’t matter. Carli came out, and I remarked to her that the curly haired guy actually had a name, and she was genuinely intrigued, and then we turned towards the theater. Theater number nine. 12:05 showing. Batman.
For future reference, let me tell you how I’m going to lay out my directional point of view, so I don’t have to try to explain every time which side I’m talking about. When I say the right or left side, I’m speaking from the point of view of a moviegoer facing the screen. The right side is the side that would be on your right if you were sitting down and facing a movie screen. Okay, that part’s done. This has been pretty easy to type so far, but it’s about to get a lot harder because now I have to think about the bad parts. I just need to lay it all out there, so don’t feel discouraged if I get overly descriptive. I think I really just needed to record these events on some sort of medium so I could have it all layed out at my fingertips whenever I needed it. My medium is words on a piece of paper, even if it is a digital piece of paper on Word. I haven’t tried to watch much TV, because I’m all too aware of what is on the news right now, so I hope this is a fresh point of view from a pair of survivors. You see what’s happening here? I can even procrastinate while I am in the act of writing! I’m going to take a break and stretch for a moment before I continue.
So I just made a leftover cheeseburger at 9:40 in the morning. It was delicious. Nibbler really wanted it.
Okay, so back to it then. Carli and I walked into the theater holding hands. We decided randomly to enter the theater on the left side. Once we got past the downward slanted wall, we faced the crowd and attempted to locate two seats that were next to each other. The place was absolutely bursting with people! I’m not sure that when the movie started there was an empty seat in there. I estimate the capacity at a bit over 200 people, but that’s just a guess. I spot two vacant looking seats in a row almost exactly halfway up the theater. We climb about ten stairs until we reach the row, and then excuse ourselves as we awkwardly nudged past the first six or so people. Upon reaching the seats, we are informed that one of them is taken. So we, even more awkwardly now, back out of the row and look around again. There is a pair of seats on the outer left side of a row three or four rows down. I only passed them initially because I prefer to be more centered to the screen, but at this point I would take what I could get.
Carli took the seat on the inside and I the outside. There was still about five minutes before the previews started. The whole place was abuzz with conversation and excitement. After a four year wait, we were finally going to get to see the end of the latest and greatest Batman trilogy! A younger lady in front of us threw a piece of popcorn, missed her mouth and hit Carli in the leg. She apologized quickly, and I remember thinking that was fine then. As long as this thing didn’t turn into a foodfight, I wouldn’t be too upset. I really wish it would have turned into a food fight. I can think of absolutely nothing else right now that I would wish for.
I remember seeing the manager in the tan suit walk in from the left side, so I hesitated in pulling out my giant mountain dew. He was looking around and he spoke something into the radio in his ear. I remember thinking that I wish I had that dude’s job. Walking around a movie theater with a sweet walkie-talkie, asking people for stubs. Sweet. As soon as the first green preview screen popped up, Mr. Tan Manager turned around and disappeared behind the slanted wall.
There were a couple previews that intrigued me. I thought they could’ve made a better trailer for the Hobbit, but I knew I would see it anyways. Something about Tom Cruise trying kicking people’s asses. Sweet. I secretly like Tom Cruise as an actor, even though Tom Cruise as a person I would probably punch in the stomach. Anyways, Tom, just keep making cool movies, okay? Just no more Mission Impossibles, because I don’t have the attention span any more. Finally, the movie started. I screamed out, “WHOOOOOOOOO!!!” along with most other people in the theater. The movie was starting out a bit slow, but I expected that with a three hour movie. I was certainly intrigued. About ten or fifteen minutes into the movie is when it happened.
All of this happened within about ten seconds, but it replays over and over in my mind and it seems so much longer.
Something caught my eye on the right side of the theater. The right emergency exit, located directly under the screen, was opening up. It didn’t open slowly, and it wasn’t ripped open quickly. It was slowly and calmly opened up, and what came through was my worst nightmare. All of my secret fears and dreams came through that door. I saw a person who seemed a little tall, I guess, standing in the doorway. No physical description of the person could be made. I will try to relate how I saw him in my mind. I could see that the person was wearing what looked like some extremely thick body armor. Also, I noticed that he was wearing some sort of heavy duty mask on his face. Later I learned all about his body armor and gas/tactical masks, but this is what I saw. I saw a combination of Boba Fett from Star Wars and one of the main characters from Army of Two. Only with much thicker body armor.
It happened so quickly that it didn’t register something was wrong for a few seconds. I think that everyone in the audience thought it was some sort of promotional thing for the movie, which isn’t that farfetched. There were tons of people in costumes at the Avengers premier.
The armored man stood in the doorway and surveyed the theater for a fraction of a second before he went into action. He had something that looked like a big can or tube in his hand, and he threw this (underhand. He calmly lobbed it underhand) up into the crowd. I watched the projectile closely, and then grew slightly alarmed when I realized that it was going to hit either myself or Carli. I believe Carli even swatted at it. But it didn’t hit us, it just landed at our feet. Now, keep in mind this all happened in a couple seconds, and still to this point I still wasn’t sure that something was wrong. I thought maybe this guy was throwing some promotional prizes at us, and we just happened to be lucky enough to have whatever it was land at our feet.
Then it started hissing, and I saw smoke coming out of it. A second later, my nostrils were overwhelmed by what I immediately recognized as tear gas. That was the instant that it became real, and it became real to Carli about a split second before me, because she was up and outta that seat in a heartbeat. She stood up and started to run out, and believe me I was right behind her. Her reacting a hair of a second before me is what got her shot, but it’s also what saved our lives.
I just feel I have to say this because it is truth. Having served in the United States Navy very directly saved both of our lives that night. In Navy bootcamp all of the recruits are exposed to teargas so that they can recognize it and not be overwhelmed as easily by its effects. It burns like hell, and makes it nearly impossible to breathe. It has a very sharp, acrid odor that is very easily recognizable. If I didn’t know what it was exactly when it hit our feet, I’m not sure what would’ve happened. I like to think that I would’ve gotten up and ran pretty quick anyways, but it might not have been quick enough to save my life.
So, Carli gets up and essentially shields me from getting shot, and we start running. My nose is starting to run and my eyes are starting to burn from the teargas, but I know we’ve got to get out of there and quick. Fortunately, the downward sloping wall started only a couple rows down from us, and luckily we were sitting on the farthest outside seats. I kept my head low as we made it around the corner of the wall in about two seconds. Then we began racing down the dimly lit hallway, Carli right in front of me. While we were running, it registered to me that there were explosions happening all around me. As we fled down the hall, I remember some stubborn part of my brain trying to insist to me that some prankster was just in there lighting off fireworks. Another part of my brain told me, “No, man. That’s not fireworks and you know it. How bout you just keep on running?” So we did.
We came flying out into the main hallway of the theater. Carli and I were one of the first people to actually get out of there. I hear that most people just lay on the floor and waited for the worst to happen. My heart goes out to them, but nothing I could’ve done would have saved any of them, so I am trying really hard to not feel guilty right now about being alive and well. As we raced out of the theater, I noticed some very confused looks on the faces of the employees and all the customers standing around getting popcorn. I think some people were yelling, “they’re shooting,” but I’m not sure exactly what was yelled in there as my adrenaline was just starting to really kick in.
We exploded out of the main entrance and began running to my car, which was inconveniently parked way far away in the boondocks section of the parking lot. As we ran to the car, I kept expecting to get cut down by gunfire. Surely there would be other shooters hanging out in the parking lot to shoot the ones like us that got away. But nobody cut us down. We made it to the car and, surprisingly, I didn’t fumble for my keys like you see in the movies. I got that key right in there first try, and unlocked the doors. While we were running, I remember Carli saying something about being covered in someone elses blood. I, too, had a good amount of mystery blood on me. The blood on Carli, however, was mainly from herself. This is when I realized that some asshole had just shot my girlfriend.
Everybody wants to know how they would react to extreme situations like this. There were lots and lots of ways that I wanted to react: sit down and cry, start screaming maniacally, punch god in the mouth. But, Carli mentioned that she needed me to be calm or else she was going to freak out. So that’s what I did. I was probably the calmest dude in history that night, until it was all over at least. I remembered the police officer who had been stuck on the traffic crew, and decided that was my quickest bet at getting some help. I drove calmly but efficiently out of the parking lot, managing to not run anyone over. As I turned out of the mall entrance I spotted the same officer standing in the same spot on Sable street. I also noticed a police car come whipping around the corner so fast that he slid sideways for a moment before correcting himself and racing towards the theater. I obviously wasn’t stopping that guy, so I continued towards the guy in the street (whose name I can’t recall).
I came up to him honking my horn like crazy, and yelled to him that I needed an ambulance. My girlfriend has been shot I need a goddamn ambulance!! This whole night I tried to take everything with a grain of salt, because I knew that all the police and firemen and paramedics and doctors were going to have their hands full after this. The officer told me to park my car next to the curb, so I did. Everything around me was going crazy. Firetrucks and ambulances and police cars all flashing their lights and sirens around us in the nighttime lent a surreal quality to everything.
After a couple of scary minutes where Carli screamed in pain and I could think of nothing else to do but hold her and tell her she was going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay. A paramedic finally showed up and took a look at her. I got out of the car, and listened to the paramedics debate about whether or not her injury was severe enough to warrant putting her in an ambulance. I remember thinking, “are you serious? She’s been shot and you’re arguing about whether or not she deserves to ride in an ambulance?” that’s when the first fang of reality gave me a little bite, and I had a brief thought that we just escaped with our lives. And some people did not. But, I pushed that thought away quickly in order to keep some level of sanity. I just wanted to collapse on the ground and let someone else take care of me, but I needed to be strong for Carli, so I did an incredible job at pretending that I was somewhat calm. Maybe I have more acting potential than I am aware of.
Finally, after some debate about letting me just take her to a hospital (which horrified me because I wasn’t actually sure where the closest hospital was, and I was having trouble following the directions the officer gave me) the paramedics decided that she could ride in the ambulance after all. I, however, could not. So I was told to follow the ambulance. I told Carli that I would find her, and I like to think that she heard me because she was in so much pain, she kept saying, “please just make the pain stop just make the pain go away.”
I followed the ambulance for a couple of blocks before I realized that they were going back to the movie theater. I didn’t realize they had to pick up other people, so this confused me. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in the correct mental state to be driving, but I did a surprisingly remarkable job. We got to the movie theater and then the ambulance stopped for a minute. I was praying that they were doing the best that they could for Carli, and that’s when the ambulance started backing up quickly. I threw my car in reverse, noticed a firetruck directly behind me but realized I was being hit by one or the other. Somehow the ambulance just bumped me a little and I was able to maneuver my car out of that mess unscathed. So, now I had to find the hospital on my own. Great.
I got to the hospital that the police officer had given me directions to, after much fear that I would never find it. I kept asking, but as far as the desk knew, Carli wasn’t there. But, they didn’t have everyone’s name and several people were trying to talk to me at once. I called my roommate Jeremy, and asked if he would come down and help me find Carli. He said he was on his way. Some old doctor found out that I had been exposed to gas, so twenty minutes later I am told to strip down and shower in front of the old dude, who is now outfitted in a full body plastic spacesuit. He hands me a sponge and watches me shower for about ten minutes. Oddly enough, it didn’t feel that weird.
They confiscated my clothes. I spent at least an hour there until I became certain that Carli was not at this hospital. I tried to leave, but was forced to make a police statement. I did that quickly, and tried to get at least my car keys back, but it ended up taking me quite some time to convince them to let me have my keys and wallet and phone back.
Three hospitals later, I found Carli. I have never been more happy or relieved at any moment in my life. You really find out, or are reminded, what a person means to you when you almost lose them. And Carli means the absolute world to me. It was about 4:00 a.m. when I finally found her and was able to be there for her. Luckily, the buckshot that has wounded pretty much her whole right side from shoulder to knee, did not pierce any organs or cause any mortal damage. Around 9:00-9:30 she was being wheeled out to my car, which reminded me again of what happened because the interior is covered in blood.
We stopped at a Safeway to fill her prescription for pain medication, and then we stopped at a McDonalds drive-thru to grab some greasy breakfast to take home. She got into bed, and I told her to let me know if there was anything at all that she needed. She appeared to be as comfortable as I can imagine possible, and so I sat down. I turned on the news, which I hadn’t really been paying attention to.
Then I started to cry. I couldn’t stop myself for a while. The whole night of trying to be calm and keep myself together came crashing in on me all at once, and I had myself a good old fashioned cry. Carli couldn’t even hold me because her arm is riddled with holes, and that made me even more sad.
So, that’s all of it for now. I think I typed a great deal more than I expected. I’m not sure how to conclude this, because I don’t think it will ever be concluded in my brain. Every time I shut my eyes I see that emergency exit coming calmly open and the monster that stood behind it. Literally, I see this, and I don’t know what to do about it. A toilet flushed kind of loud in the hospital and I about jumped to the ceiling. This man has changed a lot of things for me, and taken away some things that I will probably never get back. Like peace of mind and the calming effects that a movie theater has always had for me. A movie theater is supposed to be my sanctuary. I’ve been known to disappear and just go to the movies by myself because I like sitting there in the dark sometimes and not having to talk to anybody. Where’s my sanctuary now? Where the hell am I supposed to go? I certainly won’t be going to the movies for a while. Are you serious? Last night I was too afraid to turn off the light before I went to sleep.
I haven’t been afraid to turn off the light since I was five years old.
If you would like to help out Chris and Carli with medical bills/therapy please donate at Carli’s website.
Fundraiser for Carli and Chris: http://www.indiegogo.com/careforcarli?c=home
Carli’s Website Click Donate!: http://www.carlirotten.net/donate/
The original post can be found Here: https://www.facebook.com/chris.townson1/posts/506305459395181
Carli’s first hand account can be found here: http://sinisterdreams.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/carli-and-chriss-story-continued/