Megan Hyde arrived at her workplace the morning of July 20 and heard a surprise mention of her former hometown. The surprise was not pleasant.
A co-worker at United Auto Credit asked Hyde, a Huntington Beach resident since April, if she had heard about the mass shooting hours earlier at a theater in Aurora, Colo. Remembering the many times she attended the movies in Aurora while working as a server at Red Robin, Hyde logged onto Facebook to see if anyone she knew had been injured.
As it turned out, none of her former co-workers had posted status updates about the shooting. But the comments that others had posted on their pages told a grim story.
"People were saying, 'Oh my God, I'm sorry. I can't believe this happened to you,'" Hyde said. "That sort of thing."
When she realized that three of her friends had been wounded when a gunman opened fire in the Century movie theater during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," Hyde felt even more devastated that she hadn't been back in Aurora to offer them support.
But this weekend in Huntington Beach, she plans to do exactly that.
Friday night, Hyde will host a fundraiser at Suds Sports Grill to help pay for her friends' medical bills. The event, set to kick off at 6 p.m., features live music, raffles, merchandise sales and more.
Given the cost of medical bills — and the fact that, according to her, two of the three recipients lack insurance — Hyde has no idea how much needs to be raised for their treatment. Her only hope Friday is to do as much as she can.
"I don't know how generous people are going to be," Hyde said. "A couple thousand would be nice. If people give more than that, that would be even better."
'I thought it was antics'
Christina Blache — Crispy to her friends — attended the midnight screening in Aurora on a whim. Her colleague, Alex Sullivan, had gotten tickets in advance for the first showing. As word spread around the office, about a dozen co-workers opted in.
Shortly after midnight, Blache was seated in the theater when she thought someone at the front of the theater had thrown a paper airplane. For a highly anticipated comic-book movie, it seemed like a natural part of opening night.
"I thought it was antics that were going on," said Blache, an assistant manager at the Aurora location. "Sometimes, at midnight premieres, they bring people in costume and they duel, or they have a trivia contest or something."
Then the airborne object exploded. As gunfire followed it, Blache and her friends hit the floor as fast as they could.
In Blache's case, it didn't turn out to be fast enough. When she rose from her seat, a bullet passed through both of her kneecaps. She landed on the floor and applied pressure on the wounds with her jeans while her friends screamed around her.
Minutes later, with the gunman gone, one of the friends called the police. Three responders ultimately carried Blache out and set her in a police car, which jumped a curb to transport her to an ambulance.
One of her colleagues never left the theater: Sullivan, a server and middle manager, died next to her on the floor.
In all, seven employees from the Aurora location were killed or injured in the massacre, according to Kevin Caulfield, the company's senior director of communications. The Red Robin Foundation has set up a special fund for the surviving victims and has held fundraisers to help pay for hospital bills, lost wages and other costs.
"If they ask us for the money, we'll do whatever we can to help them," Caulfield said.
An eclectic support group
Hyde connected with Suds owner Bill Cheves through a friend who works at the restaurant. When she attended a breast cancer fundraiser several weeks ago and pitched her idea to Cheves, he was happy to oblige.
Through her friend, Hyde lined up three local bands — Rebellion 68, WKWS and With Strangers — as well as a disc jockey named DJ Cid. For her raffle prizes, she summoned some other connections: Her brother, who has a college friend now working for the Anaheim Ducks, was able to help provide a hockey stick signed by Ducks star Teemu Selanne.
A co-worker with a friend in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization also netted autographed photos and baseballs, and Hyde persuaded Knott's Berry Farm to donate tickets, she said.
The recipients of Hyde's fundraiser, whom she counts as personal friends, are taking online donations as well. Blache and Heather Snyder have charity pages on Facebook (titled Helping Crispy Heal and Helping Heather Heal, respectively), while Farrah Soudani's family has created a website, http://www.farrahsoudani.com.
Neither Snyder nor Soudani could be reached for comment.
Blache, who went to a rehabilitation center in Denver after the shooting and used a walker to gradually regain use of her legs, said her physical pain comes and goes. Toward the shooting suspect, though, she has no feelings of hatred or even anger, merely puzzlement.
"I'm not mad, no," Blache said. "I could be. But it's in the past. It's done. It's over. The best word would be shock.
"I'm trying to move past it and move on with my life. Dwelling on it's not going to make it better."
If You Go
What: Benefit for Colorado shooting victims with bands Rebellion 68, WKWS, With Strangers and DJ Cid
Where: Suds Sports Grill, 5932 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach
When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday
Information: (714) 846-5700