As details emerged about the deadly rampage in a Colorado theater screening a superhero movie, it became clear that real-life heroes had been sitting in the audience. For many local couples, the midnight Friday debut of The Dark Knight Rises was date-night. And when gunfire erupted, four young men sprang into action without hesitating, making the ultimate sacrifice to protect their girlfriends. Here, a brief guide to these heartwarming, and heartbreaking, stories of old-fashioned chivalry:
What did these true-life heroes do?
They used their own bodies as shields to protect their girlfriends. Matt McQuinn, 27, "dived" in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler. Jonathan Blunk threw his date, Jansen Young, 21, to the floor, pushed her under a seat and shouted, "Stay down!" Young said Blunk pushed her further under the seat as the gunman — alleged to be James Holmes, 24 — walked up the aisle, shooting. Alex Teves, 24, used his body to cover his girlfriend of one year, Amanda Lindgren. Navy Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, 27, did the same to shield his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek. All four of the men were fatally shot.
Did their girlfriends survive?
Yes, all four of the women made it. "John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me," Vojtsek said. "I feel very strongly I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness." Yowler, who had been dating McQuinn since 2009 when they met working at a Target store, was shot in the knee; McQuinn took three other bullets, in the chest, back, and leg. Young told Today that she had no doubt that Blunk "took a bullet for me." The young man's ex-wife said Blunk had always said that if he was going to die, he "wanted to die a hero."
How has the media reacted?
Mostly with respect and circumspection. One Wall Street Journal writer, however, tweeted that he hoped the women were "worthy" of these sacrifices, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. I hope the women can tune out such crass thoughts as they grieve, and take comfort in the knowledge that "the men who loved them chose to do something honorable and beautiful for them."
Were there other tales of heroism?
Yes, several. One young woman applied pressure to her best friend's gunshot wound, keeping her alive. A 13-year-old girl tried desperately to resuscitate her 6-year-old friend using CPR as soon as the gunfire stopped. Another man, who survived, said his first thought was saving his wife, who was pregnant. The man told CBS that he resolved instantly to "save my family and do anything I could to save my unborn child; and I wish I could have done more because there were two families that had brought their kids in car seats." These "tales of heroism are serving as a balm for survivors and a nation whose faith in humanity has been rattled," says Sarah Boesveld at Canada's National Post.