Q&A: Aurora shooting victim on forgiveness
AURORA, Colo. (BP) -- Pierce O'Farrill, a member of The Edge Church, a new church in Aurora, Colo., gained nationwide attention as a survivor of the theater shootings -- not just in recounting his brush with death and narrow escape, but his statements about forgiving the shooter.
Amber Cassady, a correspondent for the Colorado Baptist General Convention, conducted a telephone interview with O'Ferrill about his time in the theater and how he would like to minister to other victims and the accused gunman.
O'Farrill, 28, was shot in the right arm and left foot and has shrapnel lodged in his chest. An edited transcript of the interview follows:
CASSADY: So Pierce, do you feel like things have sunken in yet? Do you feel that you have been able to process?
O'FARRILL: Still kind of processing. It is going to take some time to get over some of the things that I saw.
CASSADY: I am sure that has caused you to rely on the Lord even more.
O'FARRILL: Of course, that has been my sole source of strength.
CASSADY: I was curious as to if you were able to forgive the gunman right away or if it has been a process in your heart over the last several days?
O'FARRILL: No, it was definitely right away. I am blessed to know the Lord, and He is deep, deep in my heart. The Lord has forgiven me.
I had a number of years in my life without Jesus. The fact that God forgave me after everything I'd done, and pulled me back … I mean, I pray that He uses me every day.
CASSADY: It can be countercultural to forgive those who do wrong, but you have been very outspoken about forgiving the gunman from the beginning. Have you gotten any negative feedback about that?
O'FARRILL: No, not at all. Everyone has been incredibly positive. All the messages just keep pouring in from Facebook and all over.
I have done about seven radio interviews in the last 24 hours with stations all over the country. People from everywhere have heard and keep telling me I am a source of inspiration.
Every one of these interviews has been on secular radio stations and I have been very clear in telling them: My biggest fear in all of this is that my family, my friends and other people would blame God.
This was not an act of God. There was an evil presence in that [theater]. As I looked at the man in the court hearings, I saw a blank stare and a lost soul. It wasn't the same man that was killing people in that [theater].
CASSADY: I've heard you mention several times that you were praying fervently during all of this. What were you praying?
O'FARRILL: I was praying for my family to understand if I was going to go home. I was praying for Jesus to be with me in the journey if that's where He wanted me.
I told Him that I trusted His decision, and that if He was ready to take me home then I trusted that, and if He wanted me to stay then I definitely trusted that too. I would fight through the pain and everything that I was feeling.
CASSADY: Do you remember being taken to the hospital?
O'FARRILL: I remember everything. I never once blacked out. I have a very clear memory of everything that happened. When I got to the hospital, my injuries were not life-threatening so they put me in a hallway on a hospital bed.
There was a girl on a bed in front of me facing mine. I asked for a Bible and they brought me one. I started reading and crying tears of joy that Jesus saved me out of there. [The girl] was crying, too.
CASSADY: Were you reading out loud to her?
O'FARRILL: Yeah, she asked me to. I was reading out of Ephesians. I found it was really comforting for her. She is a deeply devout Christian too.
I had the opportunity to visit with her last night and it was so powerful. I had talked to her on the phone earlier in the day and she is a glowing light in all of this.
All of the things that I have been saying, she has been saying. It was like listening to a recorder of all the things I had been saying. She is praising Jesus. She is so happy to be alive. She has nothing but forgiveness for the killer.
She got shot in the leg pretty badly. She had to go into emergency surgery and almost lost her leg. They had to take a vein out of her right leg and insert it into her left leg just to keep the blood pumping. But she is so positive.
I promised her that I would come to her room when I could. Last night, I did. I got out of bed, and I walked over down the hall and found her [with family and friends]. I was there with a couple buddies.
We had an hour together of pure worship. We prayed together. We sang hymns. We sang Amazing Grace. We listened to worship music off of someone's iPhone. It was so powerful. It was incredible. It was the single most powerful hour of worship that I ever had in my life.
CASSADY: Do you feel like God has revealed to you why He spared you? What do you think is His purpose for you now?
O'FARRILL: It has been an incredible blessing. I know Jesus had me in that theater. Through this I can give Him all the praise and all the glory. He led me to this moment. Now the real work begins and I am just so happy to be chosen like this.
I had a moment a few years ago. I was selling cars and doing real well at that. I had a time that I couldn't sleep at night. I got up and walked my dog and I had this moment of spiritual clarity where I could feel the Lord calling me to service. Two and a half years in the making. It all just led up to this moment.
I am so blessed to have His grace in my heart because, you know, I want to talk to James, the gunman. I want to hug him. I want to hold his hand and I want to pray with him.
I want my first words to be, 'I forgive you James.' I just want to tell him about the Light. I want to pray that the Light will come into his heart.
CASSADY: Do you know if there would ever be a possibility for you to do that?
O'FARRILL: I don't know. I would imagine probably not until he is sentenced and actually in prison. I would think that once he is actually in prison then I could go and visit him. [Other victims] have talked about writing some letters to him. I don't know if they allow that before the trial.
CASSADY: Is there anything else you would like to add, Pierce?
O'FARRILL: The truth of the whole situation -- there is darkness and there is an enemy. But in the darkest hour of my entire life, the Light was still shining brighter, and the Light got me out of there.
It was all because of the love of Jesus. I praise the Lord for everything the Lord has been preparing me for. I want to spend my life glorifying Him and living for Him. He has definitely given me a huge opportunity to do so.
Pierce O'Farrill will be sharing at The Edge Church this Sunday. For more information visit http://edgechurchaurora.com.