Shooting victims honored at memorial
02:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Three of the 12 killed died while shielding their girlfriends from gunfire

"He is a hero. And he was a hero before this," Jonathan Blunk's girlfriend says

Stephanie Davies stayed through gunfire to help a friend shot in the neck

Alex Teves would miss sporting events to mentor kids without fathers, his friend says

CNN  — 

Even as a masked gunman kept firing a hailstorm of bullets in a Colorado movie theater, acts of selflessness and heroism sprouted from all across the room.

Three of the 12 people killed died while shielding their girlfriends from the gunfire. And a young woman risked her life to aid her wounded friend, refusing to leave her side.

Such valor, President Barack Obama said, represents “what’s best in us” and assure the country “that out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come.”

Remembering the Colorado shooting victims

Here are some of the tales of bravery:

Jonathan Blunk, 26

Blunk, a Navy veteran, was killed trying to provide cover for his girlfriend, Jansen Young.

“He laid up against me and had the other side of my body against the concrete seating, and I was pretty much boxed in,” Young said.

“He is a hero. And he was a hero before this, and before I met him. All he wanted to do was serve his country and help people in need,” Young said. “He used to say he was born to serve his country, and he just really is. He’s a true hero.”

Blunk is survived by two young children. Blunk’s former wife, Chantel Blunk, said their 4-year-old daughter now takes comfort in calling her father’s cell phone and hearing his voice on his voice mail message.

One victim’s account: What it was like in the theater

Stephanie Davies, 21, and Allie Young, 19

“When the gunman initially came in and threw the (incendiary) canisters, he threw them only a few feet away from Allie and Stephanie,” Obama said in a speech in Aurora on Sunday, shortly after meeting with the two friends. “Allie stood up, seeing that she might need to do something or at least warn the other people who were there, and she was immediately shot.”

The bullet pierced a vein in Allie’s neck, which immediately started spurting blood.

Focusing on the victims, not the shooter

“As she dropped down on the floor, Stephanie – 21 years old – had the presence of mind to drop down on the ground with her, pull her out of the aisle, place her fingers over where Allie had been wounded, and applied pressure the entire time, while the gunman was still shooting,” the president said. “Allie told Stephanie she needed to run.”

But Stephanie refused to go, and instead used her other hand to call 911.

When police arrived, Stephanie and several others carried Allie across two parking lots to a waiting ambulance.

Allie is expected to recover.

“I don’t know how many people, at any age, would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did, or the courage that Allie showed,” Obama said. “And so as tragic as the circumstances of what we’ve seen … are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it’s worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what’s best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come.”

Victims of Colorado massacre remembered with poignant stories

Matt McQuinn, 27

McQuinn died shielding his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, during the shooting, family attorney Rob Scott said.

Samantha Yowler was shot in the knee but is expected to make a full recovery, Scott said. Her brother Nick, who also was trying to protect her from the bullets, also survived.

McQuinn and Samantha Yowler grew up in the Miami Valley region of Ohio, according to CNN affiliate WKEF.

McQuinn’s stepfather, David Jackson, told CNN affiliate WHIO that the young couple was planning to move back to Springfield, Ohio.

“I know he’s a hero,” Jackson said. “He and Sam were very much in love and planning their life together. I am sure they were thinking very seriously of getting married soon.”

‘Words are… inadequate,’ Obama tells families of Colorado shooting victims

Alex Teves, 24

Teves was killed while protecting his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren.

“I wouldn’t be here without him,” Lindgren said.

Teves graduated in June with a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Denver, where he met Lindgren.

His best friend, Ryan Cooper, recalled Teves’ kindness.

“We love going to football and basketball games together,” Cooper said. “As much as he loved that, he would take time and miss those games to mentor kids in the community who didn’t have dads and were just really hurting.”

Share your tribute to the victims on CNN iReport.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper contributed to this report.