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Stories Of The Colorado Victims: Mom's Sure Her Daughter Stood Up To Gunman

As they're told, we'll point to some of the stories about the 12 people who died and the 58 who were wounded last Friday when a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. As you see others, please share the links in the comment threads.

-- "Mother Says Daughter Stood Up To Holmes." ( Denver's KUSA-TV)

Rebecca Wingo, 32, was a single mom with two daughters. She was killed. Her mother, Shirley Wygal, tells KUSA-TV of her daughter's life and — proudly — what she says she's heard about how the young woman died.

"Rebecca was facing her shooter," Wygal says, "and that's Rebecca. 'If you're going to shoot me, you're going to look at me and do it.' I'm so proud of her for the life she lived; for the dignity she died with."

-- "Alex Sullivan's Life Is Framed In Touching Memories." ( The Denver Post)

Reporter Kevin Vaughan writes of Alex Sullivan, 27, "a gentle bear of a man" who was also a friend. Sullivan died in the attack.

"He was the newborn at my wedding, the smiling 3-year-old petting my dog, the 10-year-old hockey star whacking me in the shins as we played in the street, the polite teenager, the newlywed whose hug took my breath away. ...

"Today, the people who loved Alex will gather to say goodbye to him. There will be tears. But there will also be Alex stories. 'We're going to keep doing it,' [his father] Tom says. 'We'll be talking about Alex forever and ever. There's no reason to stop — and that's just the way it's going to be. ... When I hear a new story, it will be a new adventure. I will have met him again that day.' "

-- "Colorado Shooting: The Long Road To Theater 9." ( The Washington Post)

Stephen Barton, 22, just happened to be in Aurora that day. He arrived in the afternoon. The Denver suburb was a stop on a cross-country bicycle ride he's on with a friend. When the gunfire began, and he was hit in the neck and face with buckshot, he thought to himself "there's no way it's going to end here. There's no way I biked 3,000 miles to come to this theater and get killed in it."

Barton survived this incredible rendezvous with tragedy. His riding partner Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent was unhurt. The friend they went to the movie with, Petra Anderson of Aurora, has an amazing tale to tell as well. The Post writes that:

"She had emergency surgery, and doctors discovered that the shotgun pellet in her head had traveled through a tiny tube of fluid, a small cavity in her brain that had probably been there since birth. Like a BB through a straw, it apparently carried the pellet through her head without inflicting any serious brain damage. Doctors and friends have said she is walking and talking and expected to make a strong recovery, according to news reports and a Web site set up to aid the family."

NPR's Deceptive Cadence blog told Anderson's story earlier this week.

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET. It Was The Path The Pellet Took, Not Any Cavity, That Saved Anderson, Doctor Says.

Reader "Alex Tarlowski" in our comments thread led us to this story from NBC News, in which Dr. Michael Rauzzino, the neurosurgeon at The Medical Center of Aurora who operated on Anderson, says:

"Her brain was no different than anyone else's. ... What made her so fortunate was the trajectory of the bullet as it passed through."

The story is still amazing. According to NBC:

"[An] MRI reveals a faint trace of the pellet's path after it entered the left side of Petra's nose, broke through the front of her skull, and passed through her brain, before lodging in the back of her head.

" 'It would be hard to create a path similar to this where it goes all the way from the front to the back and misses every single blood vessel, doesn't bother any of the major structures, and leaves her able to talk and move everything and not be paralyzed or dead,' [Rauzzino] added. 'Never in my entire career have I seen a case where a bullet has traversed the entire brain like this and not caused severe damage or death.' "

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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