Just a week after jurors handed down a guilty verdict for James Holmes, the shooter who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at a Colorado movie theater in 2012, police in Louisiana rushed to handle a chillingly similar crime. At about 7:30 p.m. local time on July 23, a man named John Russell Houser opened fire at a screening of the comedy “Trainwreck” at a Lafayette movie theater, killing two young women in the audience and wounding nine others.
Marcus Weaver, a social worker in Denver and a survivor of the Aurora shooting, spoke to The Trace about how his experience affected the way he’s processing the events in Louisiana and offered words of comfort to the victims in Lafayette. A lightly edited transcript of that conversation appears below.
“When I looked at the news report and learned more details about the tragedy, it hurt me. It hurt my stomach. I couldn’t sleep well last night because I know what they’re going through, I’ve been there in that situation. And it’s very difficult. You’re talking about families who lost loved ones. They have funerals to plan now. These shooters, they don’t realize that they uproot people’s lives.
Justice is supposed to bring closure, but we’re never going to have it. There’s not a second or minute I don’t think about what happened.”
The things that happened inside that theater in Aurora still haunt me today. I can only imagine what those families and those victims are feeling. I lost someone in the theater, I know what it feels like. I know how much of a journey it’s going to be for each family. And in Lafayette, where the shooter also shot himself, it makes it even more painful because there’s no closure. There will never be any justice.
Speaking from my experience, the memories don’t go away. Memories of the gun, the shooter coming in. The smoky theater. Being on the floor and seeing a man shoot dozens of people. Being next to my friend and seeing her lifeless body. Those things don’t go away. So how can you have justice? Justice is supposed to bring closure, but we’re never going to have it.
But what you do is, you learn to cope. There’s not a second or minute I don’t think about what happened.
These victims will be marginalized by the media, they’ll look forward to that. And that’s a tough thing as well, to navigate that as you’re going through pain and you don’t feel like getting up some days. But that’s what they’re looking forward to. Not looking forward to, but that’s what their journey will look like for the first 30 days: craziness.
We could go on and on about gun control, but today is not the opportunity to do that, I feel. If legislators were serious about it, they would pass the proper legislation. Here in Colorado, we attempted to do that, and then people got kicked out of office because of it. So there is a war that’s underneath the surface here. But right now, we need to focus on getting these people healing. For today, let’s put the focus on the families and the community in Lafayette and the state of Louisiana. Let’s put our arms around them from our community to theirs. That’s what it’s about for me.
I am forever changed because of the Aurora theater shooting. I’m not the same Marcus anymore. And it’s kind of ironic, because I’m better for it, but at the same time, it’s still hard. It’s a painful journey that’s still going forward. But I have to get myself up every day because I have a wife and family who depend on me, I have a community that I’m still a part of. Even though I was not feeling good, even though there were some dark days.
It’s important for the people in Lafayette to keep moving forward. Today, they’re not going to understand. But three years later, I can tell you, it was important for me to move forward, it was important for me to forgive. And so that’s how it’s going to be for them for a while. It’s not going to be real clear, it’s going to be fuzzy, but after a while, the healing will start and then they can move forward as best they can.
This type of thing seems to keep happening and happening, but we have to move forward. It’s not a quick fix. That’s why I say, just pray for them. And if a situation came where they needed to call or talk to someone, I would totally be there for them.”
[Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images]