January 1, 2015 — Spending time with my family always reminds me how fortunate I am. As I look at my sister I flash back to walking her down the aisle in April 2013 as tears of joy ran down my face. With those memories come darker ones, too: What if? What if the bullets that whizzed by my head that night actually struck me? Would I have been here to walk my sister down the aisle?
Megan, my wife, and Mitchell, my son, enjoyed visiting Virginia Beach over Christmas and seeing my hometown. I went to Green Run High School, and each holiday season some of my classmates get together for a mini-reunion; it’s always nice to see familiar faces and absorb their warmth. This trip, I was invited to speak at Southgate Mall in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, by GEM Ministries and Pastor Lin Bennett. I never rehearse or practice before I speak. Each time I tell my story about overcoming obstacles and forgiveness, I see the impact it has on people. I never tell the story the same either. I always pray for the right words before I speak, and each time I think I do a horrible job, but the story always affects the crowd—especially, it seems, the people who need to hear it. On this day, in a full room, I witnessed chains being broken again: Two sisters who have not spoken to each other in years tearfully forgave each other.
I had another speaking engagement at Christ Chosen Church the next day in Virginia Beach. It was emotional because I grew up there. My eldest son (who dislikes church) even came to listen. As I spoke to a crowd of mostly local high school alumni, I was reminded of how precious life is, how I made it out of Virginia to Colorado, and how far I have come in my journey.
After I speak, people always come up to me and share things they’ve been through that were painful, or how they, like me, don’t want to carry the large bag of rocks from the past on their backs anymore. I think of the trauma, the physical and mental abuse I endured as a child. It is humbling to be used as a vessel to change lives. We are all called according to the Word to be preachers, but I have never felt called to be one. I just thank the Lord for saving my life that night on the floor of a dark, smoky theater in Aurora, and I grieve for those that died.
I have a hard time relaxing, but I was finally able to during a short visit to Washington, D.C., for New Year’s before flying back to Colorado. As we boarded the plane home, I looked over at my wife and son and smiled. Father Time had turned the clock to 2015, and my mind naturally drifted to the road ahead: the trial, the unknown, taking the stand, and how it all still hurts. How are the other victims and survivors handling this? I survey my surroundings, like always, to make sure I feel safe. Today, I do. What are the odds of something happening?
January 4 — Today I spoke twice at Open Door Ministries in Denver, which helps low-income and homeless individuals become self-sufficient through career workshops, housing programs, access to education, and more. Like throwing a rock into a pond, I saw the ripples of my words reach those in attendance. I always stay afterward and chat with everyone until the last person has left. People relate to some part of my life and see themselves in my story. I keep talking because I realize it serves a purpose that is beyond my thinking.
It was difficult the first time, speaking to a youth group at All Nations Church in October 2012. Things were still fresh, but a Columbine survivor who used her experiences to help others invited me. I was nervous, but ready. The children were mostly in tears when I was done speaking. I’m a willing vessel, but, still, I’m careful about the events I participate in. I need to have balance. Sometimes it causes more pain and more nightmares. But speaking to kids—that’s productive.
—Edited by Daliah Singer
Editor’s Note: Marcus Weaver, 44, is a survivor of the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. His friend, Rebecca Wingo, was one of the 12 people killed. As the trial for the alleged killer nears, Weaver—who is now the director of client services/programs at New Genesis—will be writing a series of “journals” on 5280.com. Weaver will also be journaling periodically throughout the trial. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are Weaver’s own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of 5280.