Jansen Young remembers the exact moment when it happened. There's an old picture to remind her.
“I was holding a baby,” she recalls. “And I smiled.”
The smile on her face in the picture was the first time she smiled in weeks. The first time since she and her boyfriend Jon Blunk walked together into a movie theater weeks earlier in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012.
Only Young walked out.
Blunk was one of 12 people who died in the theater shooting that night. Young said he died while trying to help her survive.
“It has left a scar on my heart in so many ways," she said.
But the passage of time comes with a certain power. It can turn the new into old. Night into day.
And pain into strength.
“I knew I wanted to make a change. As more shootings happened, I wanted to see more and more changes happen," she said.
As Dallas gets ready to pass the one year milestone since the downtown shooting that killed five officers and shook the spirit of the city, Young knows time can heal. But she also knows it does so at its own pace.
“The first year is not the year where you feel better. It is not that year,” she said. “My life still felt tarnished and in shambles, and I did not know where I was going and what I am doing from here. As a city and as a community, Dallas will go through that, too.”
With time, Young’s loss and grief turned into energy she focused on helping provide support and assurance to victims of each mass shooting which followed Aurora. She remembers such support coming from all over the world and how much it meant to her as she mourned the loss of her boyfriend.
In particular, supporting Dallas meant a lot to her. She said she's grown up with law enforcement in her family and she will forever remember the role they played in Aurora. Part of her mission is helping bridge gaps between police and the communities they serve.
“They really are our true-life superheroes. I just think the world would be a lot worse place without them," she said.
Young is part of the 7/20 Memorial Foundation, a group of survivors and victim families that will present Dallas with a flag signed by first responders to the theater shooting. Those members are people who suffered the same pain but also experienced the love that followed.
“Despite the bad people, there are so many good people," Young said. "I do not think I had ever seen something like that until something so horrific happened.”
It's a way to turn evil into good. And sadness into smiles.
And it's all just a matter of time.
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