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Colorado shooting: Stories of survival

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 25, 2012 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Kate Pourciau says she felt "overwhelmed" by calm despite chaos
  • Josh Nowlan says he wants to go back into the theater where the killings took place
  • Christina Blache, who served a stint in Iraq, says "nobody was prepared" for violence
  • Eric Hunter says he is going to "live my life a little bit better"

Aurora, Colorado (CNN) -- A few reflections from survivors of the massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, theater from CNN interviews:

'That's when I felt a big ole bang in my leg'

Bonnie Kate Pourciau, 18, said she is "not a huge Batman fan, really," but decided to go to the movie after she and her friend Elizabeth Sumrall stopped at a hotel in Aurora en route from Seattle to their homes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

When the gunfire broke out, Pourciau told CNN affiliate KMGH from her bed in Aurora Medical Center, she thought it was special effects in the movie. But she soon realized what was going on.

"That's when I grabbed Elizabeth and we ducked under our seats."

Crouched behind her seat, she prayed. "Lord, just protect us, keep us safe," she recalled thinking. "That's when I felt a big ole bang in my leg."

Once the shooting stopped, Pourciau tried to run from the theater, but didn't get far. "Of course, I fell because my knee is all gone," she said about the bullet wound that shattered her knee. "I tried to run and just stumbled and fell."

By now, Pourciau and her friend had separated in the panic, and another movie patron risked his life by helping her scramble to the exit, where she and Sumrall reunited, she said.

"Elizabeth laid me on the concrete," and a police officer and a member of the National Guard soon approached. The officer carried her to a patrol car and the member of the National Guard wrapped her leg, which had been losing blood quickly.

Despite the chaos, Pourciau said she felt calm. "I was overwhelmed with the sense of security and peace -- that it was going to be OK," she said.

Having already undergone three surgeries on her leg, Pourciau said she expected to be transferred Thursday to a hospital closer to her home.

'A silver lining to a very dark cloud'

Baby Hugo was born Tuesday morning to Katie and Caleb Medley. They had gone to the movie as a treat before the expected delivery this week of their child. The gunfire did not strike Katie, but Caleb was shot in the face. He lost his right eye, suffered brain damage and is in critical condition.

His brother said Caleb seems to understand what happened, but it was unclear whether he knew he has a baby boy.

"He's making small improvements, baby steps every day," said Seth Medley about his eldest brother. When the baby was taken into Caleb's hospital room, "he moved his hand towards the baby, trying to feel his son, trying to touch him." Caleb's heart rate and blood pressure rose, Seth said.

The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre
Colorado movie theater shooting
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Colorado movie theater massacre Colorado movie theater massacre

Caleb had been doing standup comedy routines in Denver and was working full time at Target, but he had no health insurance, his brother said.

Seth Medley said becoming an uncle was bittersweet for him. "We were all looking forward to this," he said. "It's a silver lining to a very dark cloud, but we all know Caleb, we know he's a fighter, we know he's not going to stay out of that child's life for any length of time if he can avoid it."

Christian Bale visits victims, families honor lost loved ones

'There were kids, mothers and fathers'

Josh Nowlan survived the bloodbath in Aurora, and his friends hail him as a hero for shielding them with his body. Nowlan was shot in the left calf and right arm in the process.

"Of course I'm glad it's over with, and I'm glad I'm alive and I get to see my kids," Nowlan, whose sons are 7 and 9, said as his voice cracked with emotion. "But I also think about, you know, the other people that weren't as lucky as I was. There were kids, mothers and fathers that were there, and they're dead. I'm still alive."

Iraq War veteran Josh Nowlan, 31, is recovering from bullet wounds after huddling to protect his newlywed friends.
Iraq War veteran Josh Nowlan, 31, is recovering from bullet wounds after huddling to protect his newlywed friends.
Christine Blache said if you are going to a war zone, you accept the risks. But being attacked at a theater was a shock.
Christine Blache said if you are going to a war zone, you accept the risks. But being attacked at a theater was a shock.

Nowlan said he wants to go back into the screening room where the killings took place, "look down at that same seat and say 'I beat you. You did not take this life.' "

Tales of heroism abound from tragedy

'You don't want to leave knowing that you said something'

Corbin Dates says he's not sure how he survived the killings. He and a friend both escaped unhurt, and he said he has "a blank feeling inside" when he looks back at the building.

Remembering the victims

But the experience left him sounding somewhat philosophical.

"Certain circumstances can happen at any time," he said. "Try to make the most of what you can with your family, your friends, colleagues, people that you probably had bad past relationships with. Because you don't want to leave knowing that you said something, or didn't say enough."

'Who expects to be shot in a movie theater?'

Christina Blache was also wounded in the early Friday massacre. Her friend and co-worker, Alex "Sully" Sullivan, was shot in the head, and Blache found out Saturday morning that he didn't survive.

"He was the whole reason we all went," Blache said from her hospital bed.

Brain condition may have helped saved shooting victim

Blache served in the Air Force until four years ago, and her service included a stint in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. But at home, in a moviehouse, "nobody was prepared" for the violence that was unleashed, she said.

'This was worse than a war zone'
"There Was Blood Everywhere"

"If you're going over to a war zone, you know there's the potential that you're going to be shot at. Potential that mortars are going to come over the wall. Potential that somebody is going to throw a grenade at you. Where if you're sitting in a movie theater trying to watch a movie with your friends, who expects to be shot in a movie theater? None of us did."

'I'm going to live my life a little bit better'

Eric Hunter caught a glimpse of the killer's eyes during the rampage. They "looked pretty intense," but betrayed no emotion, he said.

Like others, Hunter said he thought the first three shots were a stunt, "part of the moviegoing experience." Then he heard nine more. He helped two teenage girls to safety as they fled the theater.

Surviving with the guilt of living

He says the killings have changed his life: "I'm going to be more cautious. I'm going to live my life a little bit better and just enjoy myself."

CNN's Don Lemon, Kyung Lah and Meredith Edwards contributed to this report.

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