Eighteen minutes into the show, and shortly after midnight, a gunman opened fire on the audience. Twelve people were killed and 70 were injured.
On Monday, shooting suspect James Holmes goes on trial for 165 counts, including murder and attempted murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
It's a moment the survivors and those who lost loved ones have waited for anxiously. It's a moment that will be a painful next step toward healing and one that will no doubt bring back a flood of painful memories.
Ahead of the trial, CNN spoke with several people whose lives were changed because of the shooting. They will attend at least part of the trial.
Pierce O'Farrill made a last-minute decision to go to the movies with a friend. O'Farrill was shot multiple times and collapsed as he tried to escape. The shooter stood above him, and O'Farrill prepared to die. Then, the gunman moved in another direction. O'Farrill soon saw an officer who told him he was going to make it.
Kaylan Bailey attended the movie with her cousin, Jamison, his girlfriend, Ashley, and their daughter, Veronica. Kaylan, just 13 at the time, babysat 6-year-old Veronica often. She had watched her earlier in the day when Ashley, who was pregnant, had an appointment for an ultrasound. When she heard gunfire, Kaylan made a heartrending 911 call. Ashley, Jamison and Veronica had all been shot. Veronica was the youngest to die in the theater. Ashley was paralyzed and later suffered a miscarriage because of the trauma she suffered. Jamison was shot in the head and survived.
and Caren Teves
lost their son, Alex, who was in the theater with his girlfriend. When the shooting began, Alex shielded his girlfriend, saving her life and absorbing the bullets that would take his. The Teveses remember Alex as someone who was fearless, funny and gave the greatest hugs. "The world had a great person taken out of it that could've done so much more," Caren Teves said. The Teveses launched a campaign called "No Notoriety
" to challenge the media to not show photos or use the name of the shooter.
Marcus Weaver was at the movies with his friend, Rebecca Wingo. As the gunman opened fire, Marcus and Rebecca dropped to the ground. During a break in the gunshots, Marcus tried to get to the exit, taking Rebecca, who was unconscious, with him. The shots started again and it was chaos. Marcus had been hit in the shoulder with buckshot, but he made it to an exit. Rebecca didn't make it out alive. Weaver remembers her as a bright and shining person with a contagious smile.
Here, in their own words, is a glimpse at what these people are experiencing 2½ years after the shooting and as the trial begins.
On how their lives have changed:
O'Farrill: "I don't think the shooting has defined me as a person. But I think what I've learned from it, the strength that I've gained from overcoming something this terrible, has become a defining factor of my life."
Bailey: "I would say that the theater shooting is life-changing, but I don't think it defines me."
Caren Teves: "The ripple effect from this whole tragedy is just endless. It goes on and on and on."
Tom Teves: "People start to shy away from you, too. Because it's just too painful. And they're afraid of the fact that you're a window into the fact that evil exists. Because you're proof that evil exists, not in your persona but in what happened to your child."
Weaver: "And so as you ask about life, how I see it, I just see it in a different lens. And it took a while to get used to that lens. Because I couldn't do the same thing I did before. I just wasn't that person anymore. I rarely go out to restaurants and stuff. Because, you know, people come up to you and start talking about it. ...
"I don't think anybody who was in that theater that night will ever be the same."
On moving forward:
O'Farrill: "We woke up today, we got out of bed; this was the day that the Lord promised us. But he certainly hasn't promised us that ... we'll live to see another one. So for me, just living in gratitude and being grateful for every moment I get has been key to my healing."
Caren Teves: "It doesn't get any easier. You just learn to fake it better. ... You get stronger carrying the weight."
Weaver: "... just like my arm's going to heal, so will I. And we'll all move past this. And we'll get stronger. "
On forgiving the shooter:
O'Farrill: "I do hope to meet him someday. It's something that's been on my heart since the shooting happened. And I hope to meet him and just tell him in person, 'Look, you know, you tried to kill me but I don't hate you, and I forgive you. And there's only one way that's possible and that's through Jesus.'"
Bailey: "No, I don't forgive him. He took so many people's lives, and he hurt so many other people that weren't even in the theater. He hurt families and friends and just everybody in Aurora, honestly."
Caren Teves: "As far as forgiveness goes -- normally, I will forgive someone who asks for forgiveness. In this case, I haven't had anyone ask for forgiveness."
Tom Teves: "God will forgive anyone who asks for forgiveness. But that also means that you have to stand up and take responsibility for your actions."
Weaver: "There's no doubt about it. I forgive him. I really don't even think about him that much at this point ... I just didn't want to carry that bag of rocks on my back anymore."
On the trial:
O'Farrill: "The trial starting, I think, will kind of stir things up. And it's been something I've really been trying to prepare myself for, you know. Talking to my counselor about it and praying on it daily, and understanding that, again, I can't control how it all unfolds, you know. But I can be prepared for it."
Bailey: "I've never been involved in something so serious. I don't think it's hit me. I don't think I realize what I'm going into."
Tom Teves: "It doesn't bring these emotions to the surface again for us. These emotions never leave for us."
Weaver: "You start thinking about being on that stand. You start thinking about seeing the shooter right there. You start thinking about -- just all kinds of things and what's it going to be like. And it just races in your head, if you let it, you know? So part of the coping skills is you just don't let it. Go do something different. Go exercise. Go hang out with your wife."
On the death penalty:
O'Farrill: "Whatever punishment James Holmes receives is not going to be part of my closure. I certainly understand that other folks are looking forward to that and that's their path. But we all have different paths to healing."
Bailey: "So, like, I don't think that if he does get the death penalty, then, I'll, I don't know how to word this. I won't be happy because that's another person's life. But I think he deserves it."
Caren Teaves: "The only justice, for me ... is if that thing was in an urn on my dresser, and Alex was sitting next to us on this couch. That's the only justice."
Weaver: "Although I'm not a death penalty person, if the death penalty was ever warranted in any case, it's this case."