Jordan Murphy: Escaping That Theater Changed My Outlook On Life

On July 20, 2012, Jordan Murphy walked into Aurora Century Theater in Colorado to see “The Dark Knight Rises” with some high school friends.

“We were really excited,” Murphy said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “My good friends and I went to a lot of premiers together, a lot of midnight showings, and we were excited to do another one. This was a really hyped-up movie, a blockbuster summer hit.”

About 20 minutes into the movie – “the airplane scene,” as Murphy recalled – a man dressed in all black and a gas mask burst into the theater.

“The light from the exit door when he opened it is what attracted my attention. That’s why I saw him,” Murphy said. “I thought it was a promotional stunt to get the movie going. It was either that or a crazy fan that wanted to walk in and make a scene. I didn’t sense any immediate danger at all right away.”

But there was. That black-clad man was James Holmes, who threw tear gas into the crowd and opened fire, killing 12 and injuring 70.

Murphy remembers the hissing sound of the tear gas, loud blast after loud blast of gun fire, and the sound of pandemonium from people flooding toward the exits. Murphy, who was sitting in the fourth row, hit the floor immediately and just lay there in silence, praying.

“Surprisingly, I didn’t think a single thing about football,” the former Colorado fullback said. “I didn’t think a single thing about materialistic things. I was just thinking about what I did for other people in my life. Did I use it to my full potential? Did I waste my life? It was a lot of self-reflection.”

Eventually, Murphy heard two loud clicks. He yelled to his friends to leave the theater. One-by-one, they crawled through the row, stood up and sprinted toward the exit.

Right before Murphy made it out, Holmes took a shot at him.

“I felt a bullet just fly by over my head and when it hit, the dry wall shot that into my face,” Murphy recalled. “It kind of felt like a slap. There was so much adrenaline running. I was trying to figure if it was dry wall or (something else).”

Once Murphy and his friends got outside, they got in their car and drove off. They didn’t stick around to talk to police. Instead, they went home together and reflected on what had just happened.

“We prayed,” Murphy said. “We talked about the experience. It just didn’t seem like real life. It seemed like a nightmare.”

A nightmare that has changed Murphy completely.

“At that time, my outlook was I was down in the dumps. I was feeling sorry for myself,” Murphy said. “I had just been released from CSU, I didn’t know what direction I was going to really head in – I was trying to figure out everything. I didn’t know if I was going to make CU’s football team. I realized how short life is. It’s a gift to be able to get a breath of air the next day. It’s a gift to be able to step on the field, and so I just developed a mindset where I was going to work as hard as I can. I wanted to honor the people in there that had dreams and weren’t able to wake up the next day and try to fulfill them.”

That’s why Murphy is trying to make it in the NFL this season. If not, he’s not sure what he’ll do. Perhaps find a job in law enforcement.

“I don’t want to just be at a desk working for a corporation,” he said. “I want to be out helping people, trying to change lives as much as I can.”

Murphy still hasn’t seen “The Dark Knight Rises” in its entirety, but perhaps one day he will.

“I wasn’t going to go back to the theater and see it, but I still haven’t seen it – and that’s not on purpose,” Murphy said. “It just hasn’t come on. Usually if I walk in a room and it’s on, they shut it off real quick and try to be sensitive about it.”

Murphy said he has gotten past the incident. He did not get therapy but spoke a lot to his father, a pastor, about the experience.

“There’s still things that stick with you,” said Murphy, who believes Holmes should receive the death penalty. “There’s still trauma. There’s still things I notice myself (doing). I’ll scan a room and scrutinize every single person in a room. I can’t really go out in a public place and have a great time without always being on high alert. But emotionally I’ve been able to get through it.”

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