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Movie massacre survivor reunited with Fayetteville mom

Posted July 26, 2012

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— Frightening moments play through a Fayetteville native's head, recalling the moments when he and his girlfriend nearly died in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater early last Friday.

"Seeing the canister fly and the gunshots being shot – that replays in my mind," said Derrick Poage, describing the night of July 20 when a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo.

Poage, 22, who goes to college in Colorado, said he and his girlfriend were 20 feet away from the gunman when he opened fired and hurled a gas canister into the crowded, dark theater.

"When I see the fire coming out of the shotgun, that is when I feel it is real," he said.

Poage and his girlfriend dashed out of the theater. Safely outside, he realized she hadn't made it out. As the wounded and terrified streamed from the theater, he ran back in to find her.

"It was something I thought I had to to," he said. "I did not want her family not to have a daughter, and I did not know what I would do without her."

He found his girlfriend still standing near their seats, seemingly frozen in fear. He grabbed her arm and pulled her down when the gunman started firing again. When there was a break in the fire, they sprinted out. Both were unharmed.

Derrick Poage, Colorado movie theater shooting survivor Fayetteville mom hugs movie shooting survivor

"We both just hugged each other," Poage said. "We could have been some of the people wounded or killed."

His first phone call was to his mother, Tammie Brown, of Fayetteville.

Brown got to embrace her son and hold him for the first time after the shooting when he flew into Raleigh-Durham International Airport Thursday evening.

"It could have been either way for Derrick," Brown said. "God was on his side."

Brown said barely escaping the massacre has taken a toll on her son.

"He keeps hearing the cries and the screams, he said, from men, women and children and tripping over people going out," she said.

Poage, who will be home for a week, said talking with his family everyday has helped him work out what he went through. He also attended a memorial service for the moviegoers who died.

He follows news coverage of the mass shooting, including stories about the suspect, James Holmes, 24.

"They say he planned everything, so he can't be that insane. You can't plan something like that for months and then try to fake something like that," he said.

Most often, Poage said, his thoughts turn to the people around him in the theater who never made it out.

"Parents, brothers and sisters lost their lives. I am just happy that I am able to see my family," he said.


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  • Defiant Jul 27, 2012

    I know this was scary for anyone involved in this tragedy, but enough already. We have men and women leaving their loved ones everyday to go and serve this country not knowing whether they will live to see another day, yet they go willingly. How about doing a news story about that.

  • foghat001 Jul 27, 2012

    They've arrested a guy getting laid-off/fired in Maryland for threatening to go to his workplace and "kill everyone" who called himself "a Joker."

    In NY, they put some education dept guy under psych observation for having a Holmes fixation and telling his co-workers he sympathized with him, etc.

    Sigh. Crazy copycats.

  • hubadd83 Jul 27, 2012

    I knew that statement "God was on his side" would be picked apart. I agree that she maybe could have used a different context.

    I consider myself a Christian but not super religious. I have to believe that we were put here for more than just to live and die.I believe there is life on the other side. This is one of my favorite bible verses and it puts things into perspective for me.
    Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

    God was on everybody's side in that theater. It was not his plan that an evil man come in and kill innocent children, women and men. But I believe that those who were killed are with God at this very moment and the joy they are experiencing right now can never be understood by us who are still one earth. Have a great weekend everyone!!

  • Plenty Coups Jul 27, 2012

    I also agree with you Claire. Some choose to credit God when something good or lucky happens and claim "he works in mysterious ways or had a better plan" when something bad happens. Personally, I think it's complete nonsense but to each their own. I guess its a way of coping but I also find it offensive when it crosses the line as to God picking sides or choosing one over another because of perceived beliefs, level of belief etc.

  • MarvinsWife12 Jul 27, 2012

    Claire, God was with those who died or were harmed and He is with their families as much as He is with those who were not harmed and He is with their families as well. Believers in God know that He cannot be compartmentalized, He is everywhere.

  • Big Daddy B Jul 27, 2012

    First and foremost, I forgot this and I do SINCERELY APOLOGIZE. God Bless and keep the families of the victims who lost their lives during this event. I pray that they can get thru this difficult time with the peace and comfort that only God can provide.
    As a Christian though we have to se the biblical principle in all things. To say that you undersatnd what was being said, but if it were said to you, would have been hard to swallow is somewhat a contradiction. The reason I say this is because we know that the our days are numbered and therefore it was just the time to go. And as a Christian our prayer is that those that were killed had their souls in order to have eternal life.
    I'll share this. My nephew drowned a few years back and I almost tried to blame God BUT my faith would not allow me because I DO KNOW that he protects each of us DAILY. It doesn't say that I would be insenitive for anyone's child who had a near fatal experience but it was my nephew's time...GOD B U ALL

  • SportsLover75 Jul 27, 2012

    Claire I am with you on this one. I know what was meant by it, but as soon I a read that statement it struck me and I had to re-read it. I just wish she would have said it different. I am a Christian & believe our days are numbered, but if I had lost a loved one and someone said this to me about someone who made it out.. I would have found it hard to swallow.

  • kdamson Jul 27, 2012

    God protected those who's time was not up,and will comfort those who lost loved ones. We never understand why some made it and others did not, however, we know in the end, it is ultimatly GODs plan. My hearts go out to all the victims families. May God comfort them durning this horrible time. Another traggic event we cannot understand. Our best thing to do is to offer love, prayer and support to everyone involved.

  • FireFaerie Jul 27, 2012

    God looks out for me and is on my side and I appreciate it. Just because bad things happen, or it's time to leave the earth, doesn't mean God isn't with you. Sometimes bad things happen as a learning experience for reasons unknown. Christians, along with everyone else aren't exempt from harm or death just because of God being on their side, otherwise that would be a way to cheat death and that's not how the world works. He does however protect us at times and is with us always. He has helped me survive serveral situations in life where I shouldn't even be here myself. When it's your time to go, it's your time, and dead or alive, I know he is ALWAYS WITH ME. In the event that I do die a tragic death, neither myself, nor my family is going to take it as an insult and blame him or say he isn't on our side. He does love everyone equally, but unfortunately, not everyone loves him back equally. There are good and evil forces. No one seems to blame the evil forces when things go wrong, they

  • gman007 Jul 27, 2012

    "Poage and his girlfriend dashed out of the theater."

    "He found his girlfriend still standing near their seats, seemingly frozen in fear."

    That's a bit confusing.