Mike White Sr. says the shooting has tramatized the whole family. CPR/Ben Markus
For some victims of the Aurora theater shooting it’s been a tough year, even for those who appear to have escaped unharmed, like Mike White, Sr. He made it out unscathed, but is still nursing the emotional wounds.
Last week White finally found the Aurora cop who drove his wounded son to the hospital that night. He surprised the officer at the District 3 station to give him a plaque he made.
“Almost a year ago, and I still get teary-eyed about it, you did a great thing for my family, and we never forgot about it,” White told the officer.
White says that cop’s quick actions saved his son’s life.
For the Whites going to midnight movies was a tradition, a way to keep the family close. On July 20th last year he went to the Century 16 theater with his daughter, his son and his son’s girlfriend. But that night the theater, which had been a safe place for him and his kids, became a nightmare. Shortly after the movie started a gunman opened fire.
“And I’m thinking to myself, ‘how did I get myself into a situation like this when you just come to go to a movie?” White remembered.
He could see his son’s girlfriend had been hit by the first wave of bullets. He took his shirt off and covered the wound while he tried to comfort her.
“That had never happened to me before,” White said. “Somebody saying they don’t want to die, and you’re in a situation where you don’t know what the next second or minute is going to produce. And so I’m telling her, ‘No, you’re not going to die, I’m not going to let you die.’”
Then White noticed the gunman walking up the aisle firing at anything that moved. As he walked closer to the family, he says he draped himself over his son’s girlfriend to protect her.
“So I just layed on top of her and I just closed my eyes and I just waited for the bullet,” White said. “And all of a sudden the lights came on, he stopped shooting. I looked up between the seats, and I saw him and he turned around and he started heading down the aisle, heading towards the exit door by the screen.”
White ran out of the theater to get help. At this point, cops were on their way in. He stood outside waiting, until finally a large group of people poured out.
“And one of them was my son,” White said. “I went up to him we hugged each other, and I noticed that when I hugging him my hand was all wet, from the blood that was all soaked.”
That’s when the Aurora police officer put White’s son in a patrol car and drove him to the University of Colorado hospital.
A year later the wounds are healing, but White says the family is struggling.
“The struggles that you had before in life, which everybody have, now is intensified,” White said. “Because you have these memories coming up and you can’t make it go away.”
He says his son is depressed and angry. He’s moved back in with his mother so she can keep an eye on him as he recovers.
White says he goes to counseling twice a week, both group and one-on-one therapy. He’s become hypersensitive to violence. Even seeing a story about a murder or shooting on the nightly news is difficult.
“Has this always been going on? Has this much violence been going on around me, and I just never really noticed it, because I just blocked it out and took it as a way of life?” White said. “It really does change the way you look at things in the world now.”
He says this has been one of the hardest weeks leading up to the anniversary. But White will try to go to any memorial he can to show his support.