A Jeanerette woman shot in the leg during last week’s theater shooting in Lafayette shared her experience with about 3,000 people Wednesday night during a prayer service organized by 50 area churches in response to the tragedy.
Jena Meaux is one of two Jeanerette Senior High School teachers shot during a showing of the comedy film “Trainwreck” last Thursday. Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the women in separate hospitals that night, and their story has been widely publicized.
“I got a second lease on life,” Meaux told the crowd, which stood up and erupted in a mix of tears, hollers and applause.
Held at Crossroads Church on Verona Drive in Lafayette, the 7 p.m. crowd spilled out of the auditorium built for a congregation of about 1,500 people but fitted with additional seating for the standing-room-only crowd about double the size.
Meaux said although reporters have been knocking at her door since her story made national news, she wanted to share it first with the local congregation.
With her voice breaking at times as she recounted the tale, Meaux said she and her colleague, Ali Martin, decided at the last minute to travel to Lafayette that night to satisfy a craving for a restaurant next door to the theater.
“We were never supposed to go to Lafayette,” she said.
Inside the theater, she heard “three loud gunshots — but nobody expects it to be gunshots” — so she looked up, realized what was happening and got down on the ground.
“That’s when I felt a bullet go through the side of my leg and exit through the other side of my leg,” she recalled, choking up and taking a pause.
The crowd filled the silence with cheers and encouragement. She continued.
“As I crawled, I was praying, because I really thought he was gonna shoot me in the back of the head,” she said.
Meaux went toward the front exit, and outside “were five or six of God’s angels” quickly taking off jackets and scarves to make a tourniquet for her wound. A woman held her and kissed her on the cheek — but Meaux said she did not see Martin, her friend, among them. They had been separated.
“We were both praying for each other. That was our biggest worry,” Meaux said.
Martin, who was treated and released at an area hospital, has been credited for pulling the fire alarm as she fled the auditorium that night, thus alerting authorities and the more than 300 people inside the cineplex to the danger happening in Screen 14.
As he sat in the top row of the theater, 59-year-old John “Rusty” Houser, of Phenix City, Alabama, opened fire and shot 11 people before turning his .40-caliber, semi-automatic handgun on himself.
The two women killed — Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette — were buried Monday. Of the nine injured, one remains in a Lafayette hospital.
“So many people were, you know, looking at the evil that was in that theater,” Meaux said Wednesday night. “But I saw so many instances of God’s presence. He protected and spared my life. He’s not finished with me yet.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.