AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In Aurora, Colorado, today, friends and family gathered for the funeral of Alexander Boik. He was known as A.J. He was 18, a recent high school graduate, and he was killed in a mass shooting last week at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie. Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus was at the funeral.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE IS A LONGING")
BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: About a thousand people packed the enormous Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora just over a mile away from the theater where A.J. and 11 other people were killed.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE IS A LONGING")
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal...
MARKUS: Many at the service were clad in purple, A.J.'s favorite color. Father Martin Lally noted the presence not only of family and friends but politicians and police and fire chiefs.
FATHER MARTIN LALLY: Please know that we are here for all of you, and you are surrounded by a community of care here in Aurora.
MARKUS: A.J. grew up a member of this congregation, and Lally told the crowd that he was baptized here.
LALLY: It's easy for us today to remember A.J.'s life. Who can help but smile at the memories of a young man who loved life so completely, a young man with the soul of an artist, who wanted to teach others?
MARKUS: A.J., a recent graduate of nearby Gateway High School, had planned to attend Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall. His uncle, John Hoover, told those gathered he was always drawn to art and music, but his first love was pottery.
JOHN HOOVER: Hours spent spinning clay and firing pots - right where he wanted to be - creating something and bringing a pile of clay to life was what he wanted to do.
MARKUS: Hoover said he couldn't talk about A.J. without commenting on his appearance and how it mirrored his free spirit.
HOOVER: He started growing what he tried to pass for a mustache the first day he sprouted a hair on his face.
HOOVER: He grew his long hair, and his attitude was this is me, you love it, don't be jealous.
MARKUS: A.J., he said, was one of the most popular kids in school, someone who was easy to get along with, comfortable in any crowd. He loved movies and rarely missed a premiere, which is why he went to the midnight showing of the "Batman" movie. His uncle ended by saying A.J. wasn't the biggest guy, but he made up for it with a huge personality.
HOOVER: And we should celebrate A.J. and know we are a better people for having known him.
MARKUS: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper also spoke at the funeral. He's gone to every funeral and memorial service held in the area.
GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER: I guess I'm here as a messenger for probably five and a half million people in Colorado that would be here if they could be.
MARKUS: At one point, he spoke directly to A.J.'s family in the front row: his mother, father and one brother.
HICKENLOOPER: You are a symbol for us all of how to try and make sense out of something that is at its essence senseless.
MARKUS: Five people remain in critical condition at nearby hospitals. Dozens were wounded by the alleged gunman, James Holmes, a week ago in a horrific attack on the theater. Hickenlooper said the whole community is struggling to answer difficult questions.
HICKENLOOPER: And there is no one answer. There's no right answer. But I think we do have a choice to move forward.
MARKUS: The governor added that the community should use this time to do good and seek joy as A.J. would.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Come to his aid, O Saints of God.
MARKUS: For NPR News, I'm Ben Markus in Denver.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Come, meet him, angels of the Lord. Receive his soul, O holy ones. Present him now to God, Most High. May Christ who called you take you home, and angels lead...
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
"AJ" Boik will be remembered at a funeral today. Friends and family say the aspiring artist was never sad and always willing to help. Yousef Garbi, who survived, was shot in the head after first pushing a friend to safety.
As they're told, we're pointing to some of the stories about the 12 people who died and the 58 who were wounded when a gunman opened fire on July 20 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Click here to see more. As you see others, please share the links in the comment threads.
-- "AJ" Boik, Wanted Everyone To Be Happy:
Eighteen-year-old Alexander "AJ" Boik of Aurora had graduated from high school this year and was planning to start classes at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall, Denver's ABC-7 reports.
Instead, today he'll be remembered at a memorial service. Boik was among the 12 people killed.
A friend, Jordan Crofter, tells The Associated Press that Boik was "a ball of joy. He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy." Another friend remembers how, as a high school freshman, AJ "tried to rock the mullet" — a humorous attempt to bring back that hairstyle.
And childhood buddy Isaiah Maestas tells ABC-7 that AJ "was never negative. He was always like 'You can do this' or 'Don't worry about it I can help you out.' "
"AJ was loved by all that knew him," his family says in statement, The Denver Post adds. "We want to try and focus on the beautiful lives that were ended and not the evil that is responsible. This is a time for us to remember our loved ones and cherish the memories we have of them."
Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. More On AJ Set For Later On All Things Considered:
Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio is due to report about AJ's funeral later today on All Things Considered. We will add the audio to the top of this post later.
-- Yousef Gharbi, Who Pushed A Friend To Safety, "May Have To Live With Bullet In His Head":
Denver's KUSA-TV tells the story of 16-year-old Yousef Gharbi, who is said to have pushed a friend to the floor when the gunfire started. Yousef was then shot in the head. Now, the station says, doctors may decide to leave the bullet where it is rather than risk doing more damage by trying to remove it.
His older sister, Katlyn, tells KUSA that for her brother to have first tried to shield someone else is "just Yousef; he's just the protector. He will take a bullet" for a friend.