Bonnie Kate Pourciau Zoghbi was baking a cake for her sister’s 10th birthday party when her husband walked in the kitchen and asked if she wanted to see if the man who shot her three years ago would be convicted in the mass shooting inside a Colorado movie theater.
A heavily armed gunman stormed the theater and opened fire, killing 12 and wounding dozens of others, including Zoghbi, who was hit in the leg. A jury convicted James Holmes on Thursday in the deaths of the 12 people.
A Baton Rouge native, Zoghbi was in Aurora, Colorado, with a friend the night of July 20, 2012, and the two decided to watch the premiere of the new Batman movie.
In a Friday interview, she said she was still processing the news about Holmes’ conviction.
“(The verdict was) the right thing, but at the same time, everything is still so hard. ... I can’t dance, and I can’t run. It affects me on a daily basis,” she said. “I don’t forget. I remember every second of every day. ... Pain is a constant reminder.”
Zoghbi has had seven surgeries on her leg and will need at least one knee replacement down the road. She performed physical therapy for a year, but it just wore her out. She took pain medication and tried acupuncture, massage and special oils, but nothing helped with the ache, she said.
The recent trial was challenging in a different way. Zoghbi called it “the opposite of closure.” She was called to testify — to relive the night she thought she would die, as others were gunned down around her.
Inside the courtroom, she remembered looking in Holmes’ eyes. They were dark and remorseless, she recalled.
“He knew what he was doing. He wanted to kill me. He wanted to cause me pain,” she said.
Holmes’ crimes make him eligible for the death penalty. Asked about the punishment, Zoghbi initially replied that she is relieved she does not have to decide his penalty.
She said she has forgiven Holmes and doesn’t hate him, though she can’t forget the pain and permanent damage he caused her and dozens of other families. She said she prays that “God will change his heart.”
“I think the death penalty is the right thing, I guess,” Zoghbi said. “It’s not easy. I’m praying for justice and mercy at the same time.”
As for herself, Zoghbi said the ordeal has allowed God to open her eyes and has allowed her to have more compassion for others who are suffering, and she said she feels more thankful for the good things in her life, including the fact that she is alive at all.
She still wavers between optimism and doubt that her pain will subside and that she can put the shooting behind her. In the span of just a few minutes, she said she has felt that “it’s just a tough season, and I’ll get through it,” and that “I don’t know what closure is. ... It can never really be made right.”
But bolstered by faith, she said she will keep trying “to fight, to push through.”
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.