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Aurora theater shooting: Couple who escaped Century 16 having their first child

Three days after Jeremiah and Lindsay Wheelersburg escaped the Century 16 shootings in Aurora unharmed, the couple got some unexpected news: They are having their first child.

For the pair from Aurora, it's strange and wonderful news that gives them new perspective on one of their most traumatic experiences.

"The Lord brings beauty from ashes," says Lindsay, 26. "Even in the midst of tragedy and so much lost life, the very next day, the Lord created life as well. It's kind of been helpful for me to cope with it. I've been playing the scene that night over and over in mind. I've got this to replace all that."

Jeremiah and Lindsay Wheelersburg
Jeremiah and Lindsay Wheelersburg

The couple, who met at Calvary Chapel Aurora and now lives in Lake Tahoe, California, got one of the final tickets for the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises late Thursday night last week. They were part of a group of more than thirty church members who bought tickets to the screening and ended up in theater eight, next door to theater nine, where accused gunman James Holmes eventually fired shots that killed twelve individuals and injured dozens more.

We spoke to Jeremiah, 25, on Friday outside of Gateway High School, where he and his brother Joel, a youth pastor in Aurora, had come the following morning to offer support to some of the survivors and witnesses recovering from the tragedy. At the time, Jeremiah told us that one of the scariest parts of the whole experience was the image of his wife panicking.

When we checked up with him yesterday to see how he and his family were recovering, he revealed that he and Lindsay would be having their first child.

"There's hope," he says. "There's new life. There's hope in that sense. It's strange to be able to rejoice over that."

Jeremiah has recounted some of his experiences at the shooting on his J.N. Wheels blog. Here's a short excerpt from Jeremiah's detailed account:

At the moment all I cared about was staying close to my brother and Lindsay. All I wanted was for these two people who I loved more than my own life, to make it out of here alive. "Joel!" I shouted. He was standing nearby. Together we looked below, looked at the staircases, looked behind us. More blood. It looked as though some people were running back up the staircase to the left. "We need to go!" So made our way quickly down the right staircase as you look out toward the parking lot. This all felt like a horrible scene from a movie that we had somehow become a part of. We were living the movie out and we could not escape this reality.

Days later, it is still extremely difficult for people who were at the theater, and those in the larger community, to come to terms with the event and to try and make sense of it -- and Jeremiah, who used to be a pastor in Aurora before he moved to California, has been doing outreach work and offering support to victims' families and other witnesses who survived the shootings but are dealing with post-traumatic stress.

Page down to read more of the couple's experiences and reflections.   "The experience doesn't leave you," says Jeremiah, a barista in California. "It's still very present in the mind and in my heart. I think I got my first uninterrupted sleep last night."

Jeremiah Wheelersburg, left, outside Gateway High School on Friday.
Jeremiah Wheelersburg, left, outside Gateway High School on Friday.
Sam Levin

He adds, "I just felt exhausted from reliving it, having to retell the story, thinking about it, dreaming about it."

He and his wife attended the vigil in Aurora on Sunday night, and the next morning, Lindsay discovered that she was pregnant.

"It's absolutely from the Lord that we got this news," says Lindsay, a pharmacist. "It's kind of closure to the tragedy, though...we are of course still praying for the families."

It's been a whirlwind few days for the couple, and both say they are grateful that they are back home in Aurora where they can share this exciting news with their family and friends and also continue to recover and get support from them in the aftermath of such an unbelievable tragedy that impacted them and their church so directly.

"The timing has just been really crazy," Lindsay says.

For Jeremiah, he's feeling a lot of emotions all at once, he says. After he got the good news about the pregnancy, he thought, "God, how do I process this? The families are still hurting. I want to be joyful and new life is such a good thing...but I keep thinking of the families that have lost loved ones. My prayers are with them."

Prayer group outside Gateway High School on Friday.
Prayer group outside Gateway High School on Friday.
Sam Levin

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting: Five twisted theories about the attack"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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