Safe in his family home, Zack Golditch is just now realizing just how lucky he is. A different seat, a different angle or a different tilt of the head would have resulted in death. It sounds matter of fact, but the thought is as true as it is somber.
The (Aurora, Colo.) Gateway High School senior wasn't in the theater that suspected gunman James Holmes allegedly fired upon early Friday morning. He was in the showing next door. But the thing about bullets is that walls rarely stop them.
When one ripped through the side of the Century 16 Theater that housed members of the Gateway football team during a late-night showing of The Dark Knight Rises, it struck Golditch just under his ear and exited through the backside of his hairline.
Gunshot victims are rarely referred to as "fortunate," but Golditch, largely unharmed, stands as a rare exception. The Colorado State-bound offensive tackle miraculously escaped the tragedy that resulted in 12 deaths and 59 non-fatal wounds without serious injury.
"I thought the pops going off were fireworks," Golditch said Friday evening, hours after being released from a short hospital stay. "I heard one pop over my head. I thought a firework blew my ear off. I was bleeding everywhere."
The thought of rogue fireworks combined with blood was enough to rattle Golditch. He sprinted out of the theater and down the block until he reached a traffic light, where a group of on-the-clock construction workers aided him in seeking medical help.
Golditch was driven by police car to Aurora South Hospital. It wasn't until he arrived there that the 260-pound lineman was informed he had taken a bullet to the neck. He called his mother from the hospital after 1 a.m.
"She really didn't even believe me at first," Golditch said. "No parent can believe that their child was part of a massacre like this.
"If I was looking the wrong way, it hits my vertebrate or goes right through my brain. I'm just so lucky I was in that position."
A misplaced aura of calm surrounds Golditch's words when he recounts the tragedy. His memory is admittedly blurred, but his speech is stoic and without panic. But then, an event such as this can take time to choke down. He admits that shock still lingers.
"It didn't even start to set in until about 30 minutes ago," Golditch said. "I've been trying to play it cool and not talk about it. I was sitting by myself a while ago, and it just started to hit."
Golditch committed to Colorado State on June 11. He chose the Rams over offers from Air Force, Colorado, Northern Colorado and Wyoming. He was the school's fifth commitment in the class of 2013.
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