Aurora shooting survivor throws first pitch

Aurora shooting survivor throws first pitch

Published Aug. 13, 2012 8:37 p.m. ET

DENVER — Carey Rottman smiled as he took to the mound at Coors Field on Monday night, preparing himself to throw out the first pitch in a matchup that pitted his new city's baseball team against the team he had followed his entire life. He has plenty to smile about these days, and he'd be the first to admit it.

This game is just another part of the "circus" that has taken place in Rottman's life since the Mequon, Wis., native decided to attend "The Dark Knight Rises" midnight premiere in Aurora, Colo., on July 12, and found himself in the middle of the nation's worst mass shooting in history.

Rottman was shot in the back part of his upper right thigh by gunman James Holmes that night, damaging almost 50 percent of his quad muscle. The bullet left a four-inch-diameter exit wound in the front of Rottman's thigh.

But in a situation that could've prompted anger and malice, Rottman only smiles now. He is all about remaining positive. He knows how lucky he was to get out of that theater with his life intact. And as soon as he dragged himself out of the theater on that night, he was reminded of the positives in life.

Upon exiting the theater, Rottman said he was helped by four young teenagers who carried him to a grassy patch outside the building. There, one of the teenagers — a young girl — used her belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding in his leg, while one of the others ran to get help from a nearby police officer. With help from the group of teenagers, Rottman was one of the first injured moviegoers to get to the hospital.

"The only thing that really sticks out is how great perfect strangers were in that moment," Rottman said.

Rottman has had plenty of time to think about what's happened since that day. He's been visited in the hospital by actor Christian Bale, who plays Batman in the film. He's done a lot of things he never thought he would. And through it all, he's remained a beacon of positivity.

"I've changed quite a bit," Rottman said. "That sort of thing happens and you get out alive and you just want to be as positive as you can be and have fun with your life."

Now, Rottman can worry about the little things — like wearing a Rockies jersey to the mound on Monday night when, deep down, he'd prefer to support his hometown Brewers. He's started physical therapy on his right leg, a healing process that should take around six or seven months for a full recovery.

The former college football player at Winona State University can't quite be as active as he used to be. But those things can wait. Carey Rottman is just happy to be here in this moment, happy to be alive to appreciate the little things, like the kindness of strangers or the fact that his ceremonial first pitch didn't bounce on its way to home plate.

With a new lease on life, there will be plenty of time to worry about things later. Because after surviving one of the worst tragedies in American history, Rottman knows he's got plenty in his life right now to smile about.

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