The family of 23-year-old Micayla Medek went through an almost unimaginable emotional torture Friday.
They knew she’d been wounded in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting shortly after midnight Thursday; her friends who’d accompanied her to “The Dark Knight Rises” told them as much. But it took nearly 20 hours after the gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others to get the awful news.
Late Friday, they learned that Cayla, as they called her, was one of 10 people who died in the movie theater. Her body remained on the scene as investigators completed their work. Anita Busch, a cousin of Medek’s father and a former Los Angeles Times reporter, confirmed that authorities told family members Medek died from injuries suffered in the attack.
Cayla’s father, Greg Medek, and her older sister, Amanda, had spent most of the day frantically rushing to the six local hospitals that had treated the wounded, hoping for any information. They showed her picture to law enforcement authorities and pleaded for help. They also went to the local high school, where families had been told to rendezvous with loved ones who survived the attack. They learned nothing.
Hours before the family learned of Cayla’s fate, an aunt said the family was in emotional turmoil.
“My brother is very religious and this is really challenging his belief,” said Greg Medek’s sister, Jenny Zakovich of South Milwaukee, Wis. “His 81-year-old mother is here. She is hysterical. We don’t know what to do -- we feel so helpless.”
On her Facebook page, Micayla identified herself as a Subway sandwich artist. A graduate of William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora, she said she was a member of the class of 2015 of the Community College of Aurora.
“I’m a simple independent girl who’s just trying to get her life together while still having fun,” she wrote.
Micayla's friends told family members they tried to carry her out of the theater after she was wounded but were instructed by emergency personnel to leave her inside, Zakovich said.
"She was coughing and she fell to the ground, and that's when the police or whoever was trying to help her ushered them out and said 'There is nothing you can do,'" Zakovich said. "That makes me think she was critical and they couldn't move her."
Medek’s father, Greg, called his sister Friday morning.
"He was absolutely hysterical, just sobbing, 'I want to get my baby and bring her home,'" Zakovich said. "He feels she is lying on the floor of the theater and it is making him insane.”
"I just want to hear she's not one of the ones laying in the theater," said her aunt, hours before her death was confirmed. "I keep looking at her Facebook page, hoping she will say, 'I am OK.' But there's nothing."