Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Funerals for Batman attack victims

US air force staff sergeant Ryan Eanes kneels down at the memorial across from the Century 16 theatre in Aurora, Colorado (AP)
US air force staff sergeant Ryan Eanes kneels down at the memorial across from the Century 16 theatre in Aurora, Colorado (AP)

A man who jumped in front of his girlfriend and saved her life during the Colorado movie shooting has been remembered for his selfless sacrifice, while an aspiring sports journalist was praised for her boundless energy.

The girlfriend whom Matt McQuinn saved by taking three bullets aimed at her wept as pastors spoke of the senselessness of the shooting spree at the suburban Denver theatre where 12 people were killed just over a week ago.

Mourners packed a church in the western Ohio town of Springfield where Mr McQuinn was from, the same morning that others came together in San Antonio to remember another shooting victim, 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi. Other victims' funerals were held earlier this week, and more are set for next week.

When gunfire broke out in the Aurora cinema, Mr McQuinn, 27, jumped in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and was shot three times.

Ms Yowler, who was shot in the knee and survived, arrived at Mr McQuinn's funeral on crutches and wept quietly with his parents and other family during the funeral. Neither she nor his parents addressed Maiden Lane Church of God.

Pastor Herb Shaffer, who is also Mr McQuinn's uncle, told mourners that the shooting forever changed them. "Our lives will never be the same," he said. "The words Aurora, Cinema 16 shooting, Batman, will never mean the same thing, and we'll be reminded of Matt every time we hear them."

He said Mr McQuinn had been a gift to his family since he was born and that his actions in Colorado were just one example of his selflessness. He spoke of McQuinn's greatest sacrifice of all, saving Ms Yowler, whom Mr Shaffer described as his nephew's best friend and the love of his life. "In moments of crisis, true character comes out," he said. "His immediate response was to protect the woman he loved."

Mourners at Ms Ghawi's funeral also touched briefly on the massacre. "If this coward could have done this with this much hate, imagine what we can do with this much love," her brother told the church in San Antonio. But most of the service focused on the life and energy of the aspiring sports journalist.

"What we will not do today is focus on how she left us," said Peter Burns, a friend from Colorado, reading a statement from Ms Ghawi's mother, Sandy. "Jess was a force to be reckoned with. She was a jolt of lightning. A whirlwind. A Labrador puppy running clumsily with innocent joy." Ms Ghawi's boyfriend, Jay Meloff, noted that others described her as "a tough, redheaded spitfire", and she was, but that he also saw "a beautiful, warm-hearted and passionate woman with a capacity for love. She was as mushy as they come".

James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student studying neuroscience, is accused of opening fire on the theatre, killing Mr McQuinn, Ms Ghawi and 10 others, and wounding 58. He is due to be formally charged in Colorado on Monday.

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