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December 25, 2014 — I board a flight to Virginia, a place I love but one that I also considered a personal hell when I was growing up. I’m excited at the chance to see old friends and family at my Mom and my new stepdad’s home (pictured, below), a place absent of the past. I’m thankful for this time with my wife, Megan, and 22-year-old son Mitchell. He’s my son by marriage, but my son nonetheless. I treat him like he’s my own. He calls me “Pops.”
But this is not just a vacation. One of the reasons for this trip is that I finally will move everything out of my childhood home in Virginia Beach where the unthinkable used to happen daily—the atrocities that my other stepdad committed. On top of that, I’ll have to talk about Aurora: My friends will bring it up and tell me what I should have done differently or will over-empathize in an uncomfortable way.
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As we ascend and head east, I look toward the Aurora theater in the distance. My brain goes on autopilot, flooded with memories of the terror of that night, the flash and sounds of the AR-15 rattling through my head. I’m visualizing in my mind things I have yet to say aloud. Megan smiles and asks if I’m OK. I say yes, but I am still hurting.
My thoughts skip to what the Holmes family wrote in a letter to the media this past December. They said their son is not a monster and apologized to each victim (albeit through a letter to the media, not directly to the victims). They begged and pleaded through the media for his life.
I think about how my phone rings over and over again whenever anything happens in the case. Why did I become the victims’ spokesperson? Maybe because, simply, I’m willing to speak to the media, or maybe it’s because I suggested, in response to the Holmes’ letter, that the only justifiable punishment for their son was death. Was it my place to openly reject life? What would Jesus have done if he were in the theater? What if I had done things differently that night? “Mr. Weaver, you did everything you could,” said a detective as I watched the aftermath unfold on TV with everyone else that morning. “The best thing was to get down and leave with just two shots in your right shoulder.”
I remember, in April 2013, the sound of the DA’s voice as he announced, “The State will pursue the death penalty.” And I remember the cheers, the jeers, and the distress that followed. There was no joy at that moment. I watched the tears and pain of the Holmes family. I saw them go numb.
There were reporters outside the courtroom, to whom I’d promised to speak. I don’t remember exactly what I said to them, but it was something like this: “If Mr. Holmes wants to save us all the trouble of going to court, then he would man up and plead guilty and spare the families of the victims and survivors the pain of a lengthy trial.”
That was two years ago. Every day since then I have thought about the events of July 20, 2012. I’ve learned to cope, and in so doing I’ve learned that there are two Marcus Weavers: the one before the shooting and the one after. The old Marcus was left on the floor of the theater, along with my friend Rebecca, who was shot and killed in the first wave of bullets. I tried my hardest to grab her, but she was not moving, and then the shooting started again. I was trampled over.
The new Marcus has to use the coping skills learned in therapy. New Marcus has to stop thinking about his recently operated on right shoulder, even as he absentmindedly rubs yet another scar. He has to deal with all this as he navigates the prosaic concerns of life: searching for a new car, looking for a bigger place to live, transitioning to a new job, learning he has a baby on the way. He has to use his coping skills in the biggest struggle of all: PTSD and depression. “When will it end?” new Marcus asks his therapist. “It’s normal to feel this way at times,” she replies. “There’s not an easy fix. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s going to take time, and it may never go away.”
The fasten seatbelt light blinks off in the cabin, and I immediately find the emergency exits. I look around at my surroundings a little more clearly, taking in people’s movements and making sure we’re safe. I whisper to Megan, “How is the baby?” “Fine,” she says, her smile amplifying her pregnant glow. For just a moment, I think how amazing it will be to have a baby after all the things I have been through. It is a miracle.
As the plane levels out, I leave the theater behind and open my Bible. From James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (1:2–4) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (1:5–6)
Some days I feel great; most days I pretend on the outside that I am fine, while I hurt on the inside. But lately—with thoughts of the 13 families trying to make it through a third Christmas without their loved ones, plus the reminders of Sandy Hook—I have just been feeling bad all around, the painful thoughts ebbing and flowing like an ocean current.
The Old Marcus is always getting used to the New Marcus. New Marcus perseveres and holds on to the promise of the future, not the past—though the latter threatens to grip me ever tighter as the trial date grows closer.
—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.