Aurora's victims: Learning who we lost

Jonathan T. Blunk
Jonathan T. Blunk

Blunk, 26, was a father of two and Navy veteran who had three Middle East tours under his belt. He’s one of four men who died Friday shielding their girlfriends from the shooter’s bullets. His girlfriend Jansen Young survived with only shrapnel wounds. Jansen’s mother describes him:

“He was loving, the kind of guy you want your daughter to be with, and ultimately, she’s alive because of this, because he protected her,” Shellie Young said.

She said Blunk, a security guard, had served in the Navy and had recently filled out papers to reenlist with a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. “To her, he was a hero anyway because he wanted to serve his country,” she said of her daughter, who was left with shrapnel wounds to her side. “He said that all the time: ‘I was born to serve my country.’”

Alexander J. Boik
Alexander J. Boik

Boik, 18, was planning to attend art and design school in the fall, and dreamed of becoming an art teacher. He went to “The Dark Knight” premiere with his girlfriend, who survived:

A friend, Jordan Crofter, described Boik as someone who “didn’t hold anything back. He was just his own person.”

“He was a ball of joy. He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy,” Crofter said.

The family said in a statement that the 18-year-old was loved by all who knew him and was dating “a beautiful young lady” who was with him at the theater and survived.

Crofter said Boik and his girlfriend made a “perfect couple,” and people expected them to get married.

“If he were still here, he’d try to make everyone have a positive outlook of the situation and not allow it to affect their outlook of life,” Crofter said.

A.J.’s high-school friends have set up a Facebook page to memorialize him.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress
Jesse Childress

Childress, 29, also lost his life protecting a friend and fellow Air Force servicemember:

When the alleged shooter, James Holmes, opened fire, Childress threw himself in front of a friend, Munirih Gravelly, an act she said saved her life.

“I feel really sorry … that he’s gone,” she told NBC4, fighting tears, “that none of us were able to at least hold his hand and look him in the eye while he passed.

“I lost a friend.”

Childress was a big comic-book fan and spent his Sundays cheering for the Broncos. His Air Force colleagues gathered to honor him this weekend:

“He was a huge part of our unit, and this is a terrible loss. The person that did this was an incredible coward,” Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Schwald said Saturday at the memorial site. She declined to give her first name.

Gordon Cowden
Gordon Cowden

Cowden, 51, was the oldest victim of the shooting. He attended the movie with his two teenage children, both of whom escaped unscathed. His family described him:

“Loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner, Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family. A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle.”

Cowden was the son of a noted Texas politician.

Jessica Ghawi (Redfield)
Jessica Redfield

Ghawi’s story— pen name Jessica Redfield— was one of the first to come out of Aurora, and remains hard to believe.

The aspiring sportscaster, 24, had been tweeting her excitement about the premiere right before the shooting. In what seems like a impossibly horrible twist of fate, Redfield was also present at the Toronto Eaton Center food court shooting in June, which injured five and killed one. Right before that shooting, Ghawi’s intuition led to a narrow escape from harm. From her own essay on the incident:

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting…

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

Ghawi’s boyfriend, a hockey player she met working on a story, had been video chatting with her before the movie.

“I was kinda falling asleep, and she told me to sleep well, and that was five minutes before it all happened. And so that was the last thing she ever said.”

Petty Officer John Larimer
John Larimer

Larimer, 27, was one of two servicemembers killed in Friday’s shooting. The youngest of five, the Illinois native served as a cryptological technician in the Navy, and was stationed in Aurora.

He, too, took a bullet for his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek.

“He held my head tight and put his body in front of mine,” Vojtsek, 20, of Algonquin, told WFLD-Channel 32. “He’s just a hero.”

Matt McQuinn
Matt McQuinn

McQuinn, 27 of Ohio, died shielding his girlfriend Samantha Yowler from harm. The two met working at a Target store in their home state, but had transferred together to a Denver-area store. Yowler survived a gunshot wound to the knee. A friend said of McQuinn:

“He was a great outgoing person,” a co-worker at the Colorado Target told The News. “We lost a great person and we still can’t picture or realize that he’s gone.”

Micayla Medek
Micayla Medek

Medek, 23, was working at Subway, saving money for a trip to India, her parents said. They described her as the youngest of three, but independent and responsible.

“I’m just a guy trying to make it, to trust in his Lord as best as he can,” [father Greg] Medek said. “I lost a precious soul.”

She went by Cayla, and described herself this way on Facebook: “I’m a simple independent girl who’s just trying to get her life together while still having fun.

Veronica Moser
Veronica Moser

Moser, 6, went to the movie theater Friday with her mom, Ashley. In one of the most heart-wrenching tales from the night, Ashley was shot twice and in critical condition for several days before learning of her daughter’s death. Ashley is pregnant with another child, who survived the attack despite a wound to Ashley’s abdomen:

Battling for her own life and the life of her unborn child, Moser’s family did not tell her about Veronica’s death until late Saturday. A solemn delegation — her own mother, a doctor and a chaplain — broke the unforgiving news. Bubbly, blond, blue-eyed, ice cream-loving Veronica was one of the 12 massacred innocents.

Veronica had just learned to swim:

Veronica loved school and dressing up, and was bragging to her family about the swimming lessons she just started. “She was a wonderful 6-year-old girl — proud that she learned how to swim this summer,” Dalton told Bloomberg News.

“She loved to go to school, loved her grandpa who just passed away recently — that was hard for her.”

Alex Sullivan
Alex Sullivan

Alex Sullivan went to “The Dark Knight” with his Red Robin co-workers to celebrate his 27th birthday. Sunday would have been his one-year wedding anniversary. He’d recently posted on his Facebook page about his bride, “Just took the wife to DIA going to be gone for 3 and a half weeks going to miss her a lot. I love you cassie.”

He a big man and a big movie buff, friends said:

“We just clicked,” [high-school friend Bryan] Beard said. ”We’re both big guys, and big guys stick together.”

Beard said Sullivan stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed about 280 pounds.

He played football and wrestled before graduating from high school in 2003 and later going to culinary school, Beard said.

Maneka Singh, another high school friend, said Sullivan was ”always smiling and the type of guy who had too many friends and loved them all.”

You’ve probably seen Alex’s father, Tom Sullivan, in this gut-wrenching photo, which has already come to embody the tragedy.

Alex Teves
Alex Teves

Alex Teves died protecting his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren. Those who knew him aren’t surprised he left this world like a hero.

“He pushed her to the floor to save her and he ended up getting a bullet,” said his aunt, Barbara Slivinske, 57. “He was gonna hit the floor himself, but he never made it.”

Teves was from Phoenix, but graduated from University of Denver. His aunt described him:

“He always put everybody else ahead of himself and that was typical of his behavior yesterday. He was a hero,” Slivinske said. “He was a wonderful nephew. He was a wonderful person. Loving, caring, intelligent, and had a good sense of humor. Everybody loved him who met him.”

Teves had “beautiful, thick hair” that he kept short, but once grew it long in order to donate it to Locks of Love.

Here he is sinking a 3-pointer at halftime of a college basketball game:

Rebecca Ann Wingo
Rebecca Ann Wingo

Wingo, a 32-year-old mother of two girls, had just started a new job in customer service for a medical company months before she attended “The Dark Knight” premiere with a friend Friday. She was from Texas, and her friends described her personality as bubbly, saying she was always cracking jokes. Wingo was also an Air Force veteran, fluent in Mandarin, who had served as a translator. Her last Facebook post was about her daughters: “My little baby started kindergarten today. She is so excited to be in the big girl school with her sister. Oh how the time flies.”

So many, so young, so much lost potential. God bless them and their families and friends.