Mike White is searching for answers. To find them, he hopes to return to the Aurora theater where a gunman opened fire on White, his family and others who'd come to see the July 20 midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. "I'm not sure what the questions are," White says. "But I feel I need to see this before they do what they're going to do. Because when they remodel, I will probably never go to that theater again."
Victims say they've been invited by Cinemark, owners of the Aurora Century 16 theater, to visit auditorium 9, where the shooting occurred. Cinemark announced last week that it plans to re-open the entire movie theater and "reconfigure the space and make the theater better than ever." Before that happens, the families of those who died and those wounded in the attack were told they can visit, survivors and family members tell Westword.
Last week, the district attorney's office sent an e-mail to victims that said the theater was "open to the possibility" of them visiting the theater and advising them to contact Amanda Wiley, an attorney for Cinemark. The website of Wiley's law firm says she specializes in, among other things, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death and insurance coverage disputes.
"It's completely voluntary," says Jessica Watts, the cousin of Jonathan Blunk, who was fatally shot. "They want us to have a chance to get in there so we can see what it was like before they start changing it." But there are guidelines. One of them, she and White report, is that all visitors must be accompanied by a mental health professional.
Watts doesn't plan to take Cinemark up on its offer. "I have not gone," she says. "I know that most of the families are not going to because it is such a traumatic experience -- being where their loved ones died."
White feels differently. "It's just something that's drawing me," he says. White was at the theater that night with his girlfriend, his daughter, his son and his son's girlfriend. His son, Mike White, Jr., and his son's girlfriend, Farrah Soudani, were wounded. Soudani's injuries were especially bad and White protected her until the gunfire stopped.
White doesn't want to see the theater re-opened. "I feel like it's walking on top of somebody's grave," he says. "I'd like them to demolish it or make it into a memorial."
But he does want to see it one last time.
"Everybody says closure," White says, "but I don't know what it is."
Here's a 7News video from shortly after the shooting in which White and his son talk about their experiences.@MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org