The worst night of Bonnie Kate Zoghbi's life came in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, when she was badly injured in 2012 as a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 12 people and injuring 70.
Less than two years later, she found herself back in a movie theater, enjoying the best night of her life.
On Jan. 10, her now-husband, filmmaker Max Zoghbi, 26, surprised her with a heartwarming and elaborate proposal at a theater near their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The joyous surprise is captured in a 20-minute film Zoghbi created titled "Wildflower" that details the early ups and downs of their relationship, his grand proposal, and Bonnie Kate's resilience in the face of the horror of Aurora.
"(The film) is one small way of redeeming what happened there that night (in Aurora),'' Bonnie Kate, 21, told TODAY.com. "I really am just so thankful to be alive. This is a way of making something good out of something really evil. When I do think about the theater, it's not that I feel scared or angry or overwhelmed. What I feel like is thankful to be alive, and to be with Max."
"I had to in some way shine light on the darkness,'' Max told TODAY.com. "I wanted to bring attention to this to show that something small and good can come out of something big and bad."
Bonnie Kate was on a road trip with friend Elizabeth O'Donnell when the two stopped in Aurora on July 20, 2012. On a whim, they decided to go see the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," which was showing at a midnight screening. During the movie, alleged gunman James Eagan Holmes, 26, burst into the theater and opened fire on the crowd with an automatic weapon. As she and O'Donnell hid behind their seats, a bullet from an AR-15 assault rifle tore through Bonnie Kate's left knee.
"I can remember everything very vividly,'' she says today. "Whenever I think about being in the theater, it was the most terrible, traumatic, evil situation you could imagine, but in the mix of that, the emotion I had was peace. Peace overwhelmed me, and God was real and in that place."
In agonizing pain, Bonnie Kate managed to crawl to the end of the aisle when Holmes walked up directly behind her to execute her — but his gun jammed. That was enough time for another theatergoer to pick her up and carry her outside to safety.
At the time of the shooting, Max and Bonnie Kate, who had broken up, had not spoken to each other in months. But as Max saw the news about the shootings on Twitter, he checked O'Donnell's Facebook page and saw she'd mentioned going to a movie that night in Colorado. When he didn't hear back from O'Donnell, he called Bonnie Kate's parents, who informed him that she had in fact been at the theater in Aurora.
"At that point we didn't know anything, whether she made it out, or if she was paralyzed,'' Max said. "I realized I had to be mature and just be more concerned about being her friend than being in a relationship at that time. I just went to her parents' house at 3 a.m. and stayed up and prayed with them."
Bonnie Kate spent two weeks in a hospital in Colorado and another week in a hospital in Baton Rouge before returning home. It took a few months for her and Max to patch things up, but before long they were a couple again.
Once Max decided he was going to propose, he enlisted some local actors and a crew to film a fake trailer about a young couple, in which the man looks to make a huge, romantic gesture. Bonnie Kate's family even got in on the act, as her brothers played the ninjas in one scene.
On Jan. 10, Max brought her to the Cinemark Perkins Rowe theater in Baton Rouge, where she watched the love story unfold on the big screen before he proposed, as family and friends waited outside to complete the surprise.
"It was overwhelming,'' she said. "I was so surprised. I was like, 'I can't believe this is really happening.'''
"It was such a crazy, beautiful, collaborative effort,'' he said. "Everyone was in it for the sake of love. It was so much fun."
The couple were married on May 24. These days, the main challenge has been Bonnie Kate's ongoing recovery from the shooting. The bullet shattered the tibial plateau in her left knee, leaving her in consistent pain.
"Everything has died down, and now I'm in this mental battle of having to push through and choose to get out of bed, choose to to find joy today even though I just want to crumble,'' she said.
"It's hard to see the person you love in pain every day and you can't do anything about it,'' Max said. "You have bad days and worse days. You have to learn to trust in God or you'll go insane."
The couple chooses to focus on the positive, just like Max did in turning the horror in one movie theater into joy in another.
"Every day I have to forgive James Holmes again,'' Bonnie Kate said. "Every day I have a sharp reminder of the brokenness of this world we live in and that day. But I really shouldn't be alive. I'm just so thankful that I am here, that I have my leg, that I have Max, and that I'll always have that great night to remember."