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Woman survives theater shooting, thanks to boyfriend's father

Heidi Bergman Sodani, whose 22-year-old daughter Farrah was wounded in the Aurora shootings says her daughter is asking if "everyone else is ok?"

By Marcus Harun
NBC News

A 22-year-old victim of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., will soon be released from the hospital, a recovery credited to the quick thinking of her boyfriend’s father. 

Michael White Sr. had met his son’s girlfriend, Farrah Soudani, only one other time before they attended the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” accompanied by White Sr.’s own girlfriend and his daughter.

About 15 minutes into the movie, when a gunman began firing in the crowded theater, Soudani was hit. Her boyfriend, 33-year-old Michael White Jr., also was hit and unable to help her.

White Sr., a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, sprang into action.


“The guy just kept shooting … so then I heard a pause; I figured he was reloading, and I grabbed my daughter and my girlfriend and I grabbed them by the head and told them, ‘Escape, go this way, get out, stay low, go out this way,’” said White Sr., 55.

 

But Soudani’s leg and abdomen were torn open by shrapnel. Her boyfriend, White Jr., had been shot in his torso and couldn’t move.

“I saw the gunman start shooting again so I took off my shirt and I put the shirt onto her, holding her guts in,” White Sr. said.

He tried to slow her severe bleeding while shots were still flying. He looked up and saw the gunman walk up the steps toward them and reload. White Sr. said that’s when he jumped onto Soudani, trying to block her from the next gunshots.

In two remarkable stories of survival, one woman saves the life of her best friend, and a father protects his son's girlfriend after she was badly wounded. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

“If he was going to take out somebody, let him take out one person and I’ll save her,” White Sr. said. “Then her and my son can still have a life together hopefully.”

But before the next gunshot was fired, suddenly, the lights came on and the alarm system sounded.

The gunman, standing two rows in front of White Sr., turned around at the sound of the alarm and ceased fire.

As most people were trying to escape, White Sr.’s girlfriend ran back into the the theater when she realized the whole family didn’t make it out.  She said she held Soudani’s head in her lap and said, “You can’t go to sleep. Don’t go to sleep. Look at me.”

They all survived.

Soudani had emergency surgery within hours, and her kidney and spleen were removed. Her stomach, left knee and diaphragm were all seriously injured, and she now faces up to three more surgeries, doctors said.

The human body only holds about nine units of blood, doctors told them, and Soudani had already been given at least 40 units.

White Jr. had surgery after a bullet cracked his rib, and he has now been discharged from the hospital.

‘I’m in debt to him for the rest of my life’ 
Soudani has been in and out of consciousness but still maintains her sense of humor and also her caring nature, Soudani’s mother, Heidi Bergman Soudani, told NBC News.

“I am so grateful I have my daughter; a lot of other people don’t have their kids or their loved ones because of what happened,” she said. “She is a very strong person. She is feisty and she is not giving up.”

While lying in her hospital bed, Soudani has asked repeatedly if everyone else is OK, Bergman Soudani said.

Both of Farrah Soudani’s parents are very thankful for the White family’s heroic acts that saved their daughter’s life.

“I am in debt to him for the rest of my life,” said her father, Sam Soudani. “I really can’t describe it in words. I came up and hugged him and I gave him a kiss.”

White Jr. and Soudani have been in a relationship only for a few months, and the shooting has brought them — and their families — even closer together.

“The first time I met her she was somebody that you couldn’t get upset with,” White Sr. said of Farrah Soudani. “She was respectful to me when we first met. It’s just something I knew that if she went out with my son she would make him very happy and I know he would make her very happy.”

Despite all his efforts, White Sr. says he is not a hero, he’s “just Mike.”

“My son was a hero because he was trying to get up and save her but he couldn’t move because he was shot, so he was trying to crawl over,” White said. “There are other people that are heroes.”