When I got done with my job at the hospital, I raced over to Aurora so we could all go into the theater together. We actually wanted to sit in the back, but as we would find out 15 minutes later, we were actually in the safest place that night.

Looking back, it's crazy how quickly your mindset on life can change. Just minutes earlier I was feeling sorry for myself about my situation, and within seconds of James Holmes opening that door, my only thoughts were on survival. I wasn't thinking about my roster spot at CU. I wasn't thinking about the job I hated. My only thoughts were on survival.

The first sign of actual terror was when the tear gas canisters went off inside the theater. You could hear the hissing of the air filling the room and the immediate feeling was mass panic. People knew something was going on, and I thought this was poisonous gas. I wasn't even thinking about weapons as much as I was thinking that we were going to die from the air we were breathing.

I put my shirt over my face, and while trying to hold my breath, I grabbed one of my friends. We jumped down to the seats in front of us, and that's when the shots began to go off, like a shotgun. Pop. Pop. Pop. Distinct shots, that were aimed at people James had never met, with the intention of ending their lives.

I can remember how loud it was inside the theater. I thought there might have been two shooters, but it was so dark I couldn't really see. The entire theater was pitch black except for the light shining from the projetor to the screen.

Fortunately at that moment an airplane scene began to play, and it was light enough that we could see the exits. The four of us immediately made a run for it, and that's when James took aim directly at me.

By God's grace that bullet flew over my head, by an inch or two. It was close enough that I could feel the current of the air as the bullet rushed past my body, but that sensation was quickly replaced by the feeling of shrapnel exploding right into my eyes. When that bullet flew past me, it hit the drywall of the theater, which immediately ricocheted into my eye. My vision became fuzzy, but I had no idea if gas had possibly exploded in my face, or what was going on. There was so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that I couldn't feel anything except the desire to get out of that theater.

We made it to the little tunnel that leads back to the main lobby, and by that point the door was wide open. We got to the front of the theater, and it was completely empty. There were no concessions workers, there were no ticket checkers. The whole scene was just completely eerie, and at that point we sprinted for the car.

We threw open the doors and even though it was my friend's car, they had me drive. I frantically drove to his house, and as I made my way down the streets, my friends asked me to say a prayer for them. They didn't know it at the time, but God had already granted me a prayer inside that theater.

What I'm about to tell you, I've never told anybody before.

Page 1   Page 2   Page 4   Page 5   Page 6

Thomas Hager