The Heroes of Aurora

There were more heroes than villains in that Aurora, Colorado movie theater where 12 were killed.

At The Good Men Project we do a lot of talking about the state of men and boys in today’s society. We look at whether or not men are manly enough and even question what manliness is. With all that’s happened recently, I would like to recognize a few men who made a difference.

Three female survivors of the movie-theater massacre survived with minor injuries, but not without a lot of emotional pain of loss.  These three young ladies lost their boyfriends who heroically died saving them.

As final acts of valor, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves used their bodies to shield others as a madman turned the Aurora, Colorado movie theater they sat in that day into a shooting gallery.

Jon Blunk’s girlfriend, Jansen Young, Matt McQuinn’s girlfriend, Samantha Fowler, and Alex Teves’ friend, Amanda Lindgren, made it alive through the attack—but they would have been killed had it not been for the men sitting beside them.

Although one lone man was doing the shooting, three men gave their lives saving the lives of women. And even though the media is quick to talk about men behaving badly, for every man who will take the life of an innocent person, I believe there are countless men who would give theirs to save the life of others, often for those they do not even know.

Let us remember John Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves. Whoever they were in life, there was something special within them that made them heroes.


Read more on the Aurora shooting:

Three Aurora Victims Died Shielding Others, by Good Feed Blog Editors

Men and Mass Shootings by Andrew Smiler

Not a Joke: Why Do Our Boys Keep Up the Mass Shootings? by Tom Matlack

 The Aurora Shootings: What’s Wrong With White Men? by Jamie Utt

The Evil That Men Do: James Holmes, Aurora Colorado and Mental Illness by Shawn Maxam

What Makes White, Middle Class Men Kill? by Christian Piatt

Mass Shooting in Aurora, Colorado – Tell Me Why We Don’t Need Gun Control Again? by Josh Bowman


—Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman/Flickr

About Tom Brechlin

Devoted Catholic, married 39 years, two grown kids and TWO super cool grandson. Former corporate executive that left that world and has since spent the last 15 years working with adolescent males in a residential treatment center. Has 1 dogs, a Golden (recently lost him to cencer) and something related to a swamp rat, 2 cats, and a parrot named Paco.


  1. When I wrote this, it was no more then a spur of the moment thought while watching the news before I left for work. In the brief moments, my mind wondered and I thought of my own wife and what I would have done and came to the conclusion that I personally know of no man, acquaintance or friend, who wouldn’t have done the same.

    I don’t know about you guys, what you think you would have done for a loved one that was sitting next to you in the same situation. But I have a feeling that you would more then likely have done the same.

    So I guess yeah, in a lot of ways these guys are “real men” because they did what most men would do. I don’t think they are the exception but the norm. They represent what “real men” are in our society, that most men will give their lives for others. They acted instinctively .. they didn’t have time to look at their options. In my book, men in general, have it within them to do what these guys did. Has nothing to do with physical strength or brawn, just instinct. The male instinct. That’s my opinion.

  2. Three good examples of why women need to believe something good is out there for them and nothing prepares you for this. This is one of many situations in which one does not know how they will react until we are there. May we all remember these men did not become heros in that theater each and every one was born that way and was tragically slain for it. They sacrificed there lives for many that night just the women they sheilded because each round that struck them was a round that could not stike any other. They sacrificed there lives for every survivor that night which includes the children meaning for lives that are just begining there is know greater way to define hero than that.

  3. I actually don’t think it’s that common for women to put themselves in harm’s way for their husbands. Despite the disrespectful attitude feminism has engendered in women toward men, astonishingly men are still willing to die for us.

    • I believe, and this is another one of my theories in incubation, that some time in a protohominid world some female started pranking men….
      And had us convinced that chicks dig guys who will give up their lives….
      No seriously, in order to reach the evolutionary places we have gone- protein was necessary. Animals, and particularly large animals which are dangerous, are the sole source of any kind of meaningful protein in a pre-agricultural world. Population densities pushed pre humans off the sea shores in search of protein. And once you get past gathering molusks and beached whales it gets dangerous.
      Now this gets tricky…..
      It is tough to breast feed and run down a mastodon so women were not doing it.
      It is tough to keep a baby fed while exterminating other apex predators so it fell to men to take out the competition.
      Sooner or later this altruism became a positive trait within a population- populations with men who went and dealt with danger thrived.. Just as tribes thrived when women cared for the children and gathered food in less dangerous manners….
      Remember the evolutionary effects were multiplied because breeding was within very close familial genetic proximity.
      Terribly sexist sounding isn’t it…
      I’m willing to entertain a better explanation.
      We are our genes and if for a moment you think that a significant amount of how and what we are isn’t hard wired- you’re being absurd.

  4. JustAMan says:

    So, please don’t take this the wrong way, but…

    Jon Blunk was estranged from his wife, who lives in Reno, Nevada. Jon Blunk has two kids, a 4 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. His estranged wife said he liked to spend time with his kids. Those kids will now grow up without a father to do all the kinds fathers do with kids.

    Dollars to donuts all of these dead gentlemen acted out of instinct, to protect the women immediately with them. And I appreciate your view that this is heroic behavior. They gave up their lives to save the lives of others.

    But there is a cost to this kind of social conditioning of men. Who will help support Mr. Blunk’s kids? Who will read them bedtime stories (even if just during visitation)? Who will take them camping and fishing and swimming? Read the questions that Mr. Blunk’s 4 year old daughter was asking of her mother about when Daddy would be home again.

    Let me put this another way — will Mr. Blunk’s surviving girlfriend help raise (help save) his children now that he has died to save her life?

    May God have mercy on us all.

    • JustAMan, I’m going to take your comment at face value.

      I hear you talking about the costs of a human life. This is exactly the kind of evidence that the jury will hear when the killer is sentenced. Jon Blunk, a man, a human being, a father, boyfriend, and co-parent, has been murdered. Who will help raise his children?

      I don’t think Blunk and the others who acted to protect others were acting on any kind of instinct or conditioning. I’m told that we cannot be conditioned to act in a way that will get us killed. Real conditioned behavior takes you out the exit, under the chairs, hiding your head. It doesn’t send you sprawling over someone else to absorb the bullets aimed at them.

      I think anyone who has had their life saved in this way would feel an enduring debt to the family of the person who died saving them. Not knowing anything else about Mr. Blunk’s girlfriend, I would have to say that yes, I think she will help raise his kids. This isn’t about gender, in my opinion. It’s about humanity.

      • JustAMan says:

        Justin, you took my musings as I had intended. Thank you. And I agree it is heroic to lay down one’s life for another. I just ache at the propensity in this society to encourage and praise such instant sacrificial heroism by men, without acknowledging the hole that it leaves in the lives of others. It has a quiet, corrosive tendency to discount the long-term value of men, as human beings, to themselves and in their relationships with others.

        A factual question in follow-up: among the women who were shot, had any taken bullets for a husband, boyfriend, girlfriend or child? I don’t think I have seen any reporting on this.

        • I haven’t been reading enough of the news to comment on your follow up question. In this case, maybe there were none, but it doesn’t mean that women haven’t routinely died for their children, taken bullets for them, and put themselves in the way of harm to protect their husbands in a number of ways. There are countless stories of sacrifice and heroism attributable to both men and women. Since we are The Good Men Project, it’s appropriate that we look at and applaud the men who represent courage and other virtues. We don’t have to do it in a way that discounts acts of women’s goodness and heroism. In order to see that there are men who are heroes, it is not necessary that we point to a dearth of women who are heroes. It may mean that we have to revise, for cultural or biological factors, our definition of heroism.

          • JustAMan says:

            “It may mean that we have to revise, for cultural or biological factors, our definition of heroism.”

            Let’s not do so in a way that is, itself, gendered or uses a double standard.

            • No, and I could have been more clear that what I mean is, women and men have different realities: bodies, social power, and so on. So what is a real threat or sacrifice to one may not be to another. What is an empty gesture on one person’s part may be meaningful and save lives, pain, or property.

              Somewhere else I read that one of the men in the theater that night was carrying a baby, dropped it, left the baby, toddler, and the children’s mother, his girlfriend, and ran like hell. Then later he proposed to the woman and she said yes. We should talk about that one, too.

          • Mark Neil says:

            Read through the comments section of the story bellow (linked to in the other tribute by Joanna, as well as bellow), notice how many people say these men’s actions were that of “Real Men”. I believe this is the attitude JustAMan is speaking of. To suggest, in order to be a real man, one must sacrifice their lives for others, regardless of the harm done to their families and friends. And yet, we have just as many, if not more, articles here on GMP alone attributing the gunman as an example of manhood. If sacrificing yourself for others is what makes a real man, how then does killing random strangers reflect on being a man? Would it not be, in fact, a deviation from being a man? The fact is, the sacrifices of these men are what is expected of men, while they are simultaneously looked upon like as if the gunman. A man is expected to accept being seen and treated as a rapist, abusive gunman, then condemned when they don’t act like a sacrificial hero.


            • Being a good man, and being good at being a man, are different. I don’t think the gunman was good at being a man. No one will ever trust that guy: it’s why we don’t feel safe with people like that walking the streets. It didn’t take courage or loyalty to execute.

              I don’t know who you are talking about, Mark, who seriously looks at you and me and every other man and truly expects us to rape, abuse, and shoot them, and simultaneously expects me to protect them from the same kinds of violence. Even in the ancient paradigm, I’m either the white knight or the big bad wolf, not both at the same moment. And we don’t live in that story. As I commented above, there were all kinds of men in that theater: there was one person committing heinous evil, a bunch of terrified people trying not to get hurt, and a few heroic people who actively protected women and small children. There were even one or two people who proved that we are not natural heroes; that naturally, when someone opens fire, we will tend to save our own asses first. Loving someone else enough to want to protect them instead of yourself is the foundation of civilization.

              • Mark Neil says:

                You know, it really annoys me when feminists ask “who’s saying that” about a noted societal expectation of men/masculinity, yet seem to have no issues with complaining about the sexism and discrimination of societal expectations placed on women (Example: any discussion of the pay gap that includes the “expectation” for women to be the caregiver).

                “Who seriously looks at you and me and every other man and truly expects us to rape, abuse, and shoot them, and simultaneously expects me to protect them from the same kinds of violence.”

                HUGO SCHWYZER and Noah Brand have both made such assertions. Both are very much into the whole “only men can stop rape/abuse” type campaigns (read expectation of men to protect women), while simultaneously calling men dangerous, and advancing the notion that masculinity is violent and toxic. In Hugo’s article, he treats masculinity as some kind of disease that must be cured in order to end violence. Noah outright calls masculinity toxic (and I know Hugo has as well, elsewhere). Then we have the SFU women’s center that discusses “the way masculinity denigrates women by making them into sexual objects, is homophobic, encourages violence, and discourages emotional expression”, all while trying to promote the idea that men should join their “male allies” program “to connect and talk about how to stop the negative issues that impact their girlfriends, wives, sisters, and female relatives and friends” (but not themselves, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, sons and male relatives and friends). Then, of course, we have Verizon’s “Monster PSA” that portrays fathers as the abusers, and worst, denies male child victimization, instead portraying them as co-abusers and abusers in training (let me know if you need me to spell out why). Or how about this PSA that tells us we need to train rape out of boys from the cradle, to “redefine what it means to be a man, because ending sexual violence begins with him.”

                How can these not be seen as denigrating men as monsters? As promoting the idea that men are rapists, abusers, etc.? Will you honestly tell me you can’t see this?

                As to your raising the white knight beast dichotmy, if you examine Ozy Frantz’s take on it, you will again see that, in their opinion anyways, the white knight really is just a rapist and an abuser who protects his property to do with as he pleases. This both shows another example of the “men are abusers, rapists, violent, etc” portrait, as well as explains, in feminist words, how you can be both white knight and a rapist/abuser/violent.

                ”There were even one or two people who proved that we are not natural heroes; that naturally, when someone opens fire, we will tend to save our own asses first.”

                I find this highly insulting to men. Four men died protecting their loved ones and friends (and we don’t know how many more did the same but survived to be ignored). One man was known to run, leaving his family behind, yet it is this one, and not the four, you choose to focus on as “what comes naturally” to us (us being defined as men, with your opening “there were all kinds of men in that theater:”), just as it is the one evil man others focus on in other articles.

  5. Thank you for reminding us how many heroes surround us, Tom.

    Tom has previously written for us in the 100 Acts of Male Goodness series.


  1. […] Three female survivors of the shooting were shielded by the men accompanying them. As final acts of valor, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves used their bodies to shield others as a madman turned the Aurora, Colorado movie theater they sat in that day into a shooting gallery. —The Heroes of Aurora […]

  2. […] it keeps breaking my heart in the worst and best ways. Because horrible things usually bring out good things too, stories about ordinary people being extraordinary, becoming heroes unmasked by […]

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