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Video: Best friends who survived Aurora shooting speak out

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TODAY contributor
updated 8/15/2012 9:48:41 AM ET 2012-08-15T13:48:41

Bleeding profusely after being hit by a gun blast in last month’s Colordao movie theater shooting, Allie Young made a simple request to her best friend — save yourself.

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But Stephanie Davies chose to risk her own life to rescue Young. In an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday, Young, 19, and Davies, 21, talked about the unbreakable bond that saved Young’s life on July 20 when alleged shooter James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58 at a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises’’ in an Aurora movie theater. The pair's heroism was cited by President Obama in his comments at the University of Colorado Hospital two days later.

Hit by a shotgun blast, Young was on the floor, coughing up blood while riddled with more than 30 shotgun fragments that punctured the wall of her heart, lung, back, right arm and neck. At her darkest moment, Young feared more for her friend’s life than her own.

Story: Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes mentally ill, attorneys say

“She just looked me right in the eyes and told me, ‘Steph, you need to run,’’’ Davies told Lauer. “She’s my best friend. What crossed my mind was not being able to leave without her. It just wasn’t an option.’’

Davies picked up her friend, who was being trampled by other hysterical moviegoers trying to escape the theater, and carried her out of what Davies termed “the mouth of hell.” Davies put her hands over Young’s wounds to try to stop the bleeding as she carried her out of the theater and across two parking lots to an ambulance.

Image:
White House via Getty Images
President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, shooting victim Allie Young, alive during the movie theater shootings on July 22.

“You never really know how close you are to somebody and how important they are to you until you can test your friendship and literally say you are both willing to lay down your lives for each other,’’ Davies told NBC News.

“I’m alive, and I really couldn’t ask for more, so I’m just happy as a clam to be here,’’ Young said.

Davies wrote down the number of the ambulance and the two possible hospitals where it would be taking her friend. She then immediately called Young’s parents.

Story: Christian Bale visits Aurora shooting victims

“I called her house phone, actually, instead of calling her parents’ cell phones, because I knew that would be the first one to be answered,’’ Davies said. “I talked to her mom first. I said, ‘Kathy,’ and she says, ‘Hi Steph.’ And I was like, ‘Are you sitting down?’’’

When Davies finally got the hospital to see Young, her friend was hooked up to numerous tubes and unable to speak. However, she was able to write, and the first thing she scratched out on a piece of paper was, “Where’s my Steph?’’

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“I kind of burst into tears when her dad told me that,’’ Davies said.

Two days after the shooting, President Obama spoke in Aurora and detailed their story of courage.

“As tragic as the circumstances of what we’ve seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it’s worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie because they represent what’s best in us,’’ Obama said.

Young is still recovering and has a visible reminder of that night in the form of a six-inch scar on her neck where a bullet fragment punctured her carotid artery. Doctors cauterized the wound to save her. More than 30 bullet fragments are still in her body, primarily in her back.

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“I’m still having some heart problems,’’ Young said. “I have a really high heart rate right now. My resting (pulse) is like 90 I think, so I get a little exhausted faster. I actually had one surgery, (and) it wasn’t too extensive. Mostly it’s just been nerve damage. Things are going to take time — a lot of swelling, a lot of bruised ribs.

“I don’t think they removed any (bullet fragments) in the initial surgery, so we believe I have all 32-plus still in my body.’’

In addition to the physical scars, the two friends, who met while working together at Victoria’s Secret, are trying to recover emotionally from the night of the shooting.

“We try to stay so positive,’’ Young said. “We’ve always been positive. We just try to have fun together, try to just push back those memories and move forward with our lives.”

“There are some emotional issues that I’m having from it,’’ Davies said. “There are certain sounds that freak me out. It took me a while to go back to work because I work next to an open kitchen, so there’s lots of pots banging and people yelling at each other all the time, so that took me a little while. Every day is kind of step by step, and I have an amazing family. I’ve got my best friend, and I have lots of friends back home that are just all conglomerated around me for a massive support system.’’

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