While the nation mourns the 12 lives lost during the Colorado shooting, victims and their families, including Petra Anderson and Marie Isom, try to piece their lives together and find hope in the days following the disaster.
When Anderson, a 22-year-old violinist, walked into the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" with two friends, she didn't know a small defect in her skull soon would save her life.
Anderson's trip to the movies turned into a horrific evening when she was wounded by four shots in the gunman's melee: three in her arm and one in her brain, Brad Strait, her pastor at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., recounted on his blog.
The bullet went through her nose and traveled through her brain until it stopped at the back of her skull. Strait said doctors were uncertain if she would live, and if she did, they said she might have significant brain damage limiting her speech, thinking and movement.
Hospital visits were not new for Anderson's family. Her mother is currently fighting an aggressive, potentially fatal case of cancer. After an agonizing wait in the hospital room, Strait and Anderson's mother were brought good news.
Unbeknownst to them, Anderson had from birth "a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through a marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear," Strait wrote.
The bullet managed to follow that path and missed all the vital areas of her brain.
"Like a giant BB through a straw created in Petra's brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect," Strait wrote. "It is channeled in the least harmful way."
After surgery to remove the bullet, Strait noted Anderson looked "surprisingly, wonderful" and almost uninjured. She still has much healing ahead of her though, including more surgeries and maybe even facial reconstruction.
In a video for Anderson and other victims, her sister Chloe Anderson spoke about living in the aftermath of the shooting.
"Hearing the descriptions of what happened that night is like hearing someone talk about the worst parts of the movie just coming right off the screen and into reality," Chloe Anderson said. "Our family has been shaken by the events of last Friday, but we have not been broken anymore than this community has been broken."
Isom also was in the packed Aurora theater in suburban Denver, and while she was not injured like Anderson, she shares a story of hope from the experience.
Isom wrote on her blog "A Miniature Clay Pot" that she was not thrilled about seeing the end of the Batman trilogy, but after pressure from her teenage daughters she chose to attend on opening night.
"I don't like action movies. And I don't like midnight showings," she wrote. "But … parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos, and I decided I would take my 14-year-old and 16-year-old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy.
"Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did."
Isom was a mere 50 feet from the gunman when gas filled the air and he began shooting. She noticed her daughters were struggling and they all got on the floor.
Her youngest daughter was at the end of the row near the gunman, so Isom jumped on top of her to cover and protect her as shots fired across the theater.
But even during disaster, Isom's faith did not falter.
"In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready," she wrote. "I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn't the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Once the shots stopped, Isom and her daughters had to step over a body on their way out of the theater. They made it to their car safely, but remain rattled.
Despite the terrible incident, Isom also remained adamant that God is still good even though there is evil in the world.
"God is always good," she wrote. "Man is not. Don't get the two confused.
"We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do."
Whitney Jones is a writer for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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