Jacob Martin admits that going to movie theaters is something he has rarely done since that fateful day five years ago today in Aurora, Colo.
With the anniversary upon us of the tragic shooting spree at Theater 9 of the Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater, Martin, a senior defensive lineman at Temple, reflects on July 20, 2012, and how close he came to being in the middle of that horrific scene in his hometown.
During a midnight premiere showing of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, James Holmes went on a mad shooting rampage, killing 12 and wounding 70. Holmes eventually was sentenced to 12 life terms in prison plus 3,318 years.
Martin had planned to be there, and the only reason he didn't end up in the theater was that there weren't enough tickets to accommodate his group of seven.
"We were ready to go," he said during a recent interview at Temple's football facility.
Martin, who was entering his senior year in high school, had called ahead and asked if he could order seven tickets.
"They only had four tickets," he said.
So Martin and his friends decided to hang out at a golf course near his house. Instead of attending the highly anticipated movie, Martin and his friends were throwing a football around, on a golf course, having a good time. We were hanging out, doing what high school guys do," he said.
At the Martin household in Aurora, the mood was drastically different. Martin had told his parents, Kim and Lloyd, that he would be at the theater. When the shooting occurred and the news spread, the parents desperately attempted to reach their son, with no success. It turned out his cellphone battery had died. Imagine the horror the parents felt, not knowing if their son was alive.
"We kind of went into a panic and were calling Jacob and couldn't contact him," his father said in a phone interview from Colorado. "I was wondering, 'What the hell is going on?' "
His wife was wondering the same thing.
"We didn't know if he was dead or alive," Kim Martin said.
Everybody was calling Jacob, including his brother Josh, a linebacker for the New York Jets.
"I had all sorts of phone messages," Jacob Martin said. "There were a lot of concerned people."
Martin was only a few minutes from his home at the golf course. And he was a few minutes from the movie theater.
"I didn't know what was going on, but for a good five minutes, you heard police sirens," he said. "Once we heard all that, we decided to head back to my house."
When he arrived home, he didn't yet know about the tragedy or about the concern of everybody in his family.
Imagine the sight of him walking through the door.
"I was extremely relieved and thankful and blessed when he walked through the door," his mother said. "I was sad for the people who were tragically killed but thankful and blessed my son and his friends were all right."
It was a situation in which his parents both wanted to hug and tear into him simultaneously.
"I said, 'Don't you have a phone charger?' " his father recalls asking Jacob incredulously. "I said, 'What the heck are you doing? Your mom and I have been freaking out.' "
The parents eventually settled down, so relieved that their son hadn't attended the movie. The tragedy naturally had a profound impact on Jacob Martin, so much so that the seemingly innocent act of attending a movie isn't so simple anymore.
"I have not been back to Century 16 since," he said. "I haven't gone to see many movies in theaters due to that."
He estimates he has been to a movie theater twice since, both times in Philadelphia.
"A lot of people I know were a little afraid to go to the movie theaters after that," Jacob Martin said. "It takes the joy out of the whole idea of going."
The community of Aurora has done its best to move on.
"They have reopened the theater, made changes, but it's constantly on the forefront of people's minds," Kim Martin said.
How can it not be?
"It is something that is ever present in everybody's mind," said Lloyd Martin, whose family has since moved to nearby Centennial, Colo. "You never envision having a situation like that when you are going to watch a movie."
One of the friends with Jacob Martin that night was Evan Worthington, now a redshirt junior free safety for Colorado. He is from Aurora.
"People I know from Aurora don't like going to movie theaters anymore, especially the premieres," Worthington said. "I know now when I am in a movie theater I always look at where I have to exit if something happens."
He estimates that he has been to the movies five times since that evening. Worthington says he reflects on that evening occasionally and realizes how fortunate he was.
"It was a blessing we didn't buy the tickets," he said. "I think about it and think, 'Wow, that could have really been us.' "
Worthington understands that at this time of year, approaching the anniversary date, the topic is something he can't avoid.
"It will get brought up, but I know the people in Aurora want to move on," Worthington said. "It is something we don't usually talk about."
Like Worthington, Jacob Martin realizes how truly fortunate he was not to have been able to purchase those movie tickets.
"The whole thing would have been a lot different for me if I ended up there," Martin said. "I consider myself 100 percent lucky."