BULVERDE, Texas -- He was the only San Antonio-area survivor of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. A selfless young man, who, as the bullets flew, tried to save his friend, despite being badly wounded himself.
Brent Lowak, who lives in Bulverde, has never spoken publicly about that terrible night, until now. News 4 WOAI’s Jaie Avila spoke to Lowak about his physical and emotional recovery.
He's lost a lot of weight, and his steps are still wobbly. Brent Lowak will tell you, recovering from a gunshot wound is not easy like in the movies.
“I'm getting better a day at a time. That's all I can do really. My recovery hasn’t gone as smoothly as projected, some things aren't healing up quite as right, and that's set some things back,” Lowak said.
In the almost four months since the Aurora theater shooting stunned the nation, Brent has focused on healing. He hasn't done any interviews since the shooting. He says it's difficult to think back on the night when a lone gunman named James Holmes opened fire on a packed auditorium watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
“To be perfectly honest, in the theater, all I saw was a silhouette," Lowak told us. "That's really all I could make out."
Brent was sitting in the sixth or seventh row, next to his best friend, Jessica Ghawi, whom he was visiting. The two met while going to Smithson Valley High School, and Jessica had moved to Colorado for a new job.
“She was an amazing person,” Lowak said with a heavy sigh. “That friendship evolved into a great relationship to the point where she was like a sister to me.”
Jessica was shot in the leg; Brent was hit once in the buttocks. Brent had trained to be an EMT. As he struggled to apply pressure to Jessica's wound, she was shot again, this time a fatal head wound.
“I did everything that I could to try and help my friend, and ultimately, it was beyond my control," Lowak to us. "Accepting that was challenging, but we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Brent eventually crawled out of the theater, and before he was even taken to the hospital, he called Jessica's mother, Sandy Phillips.
“He gave us a gift that night," Sandy said, as she sat beside Brent in her living room. "Had he not called, we would have been with the other 11 families having to wait for a whole day, waiting to find out what happened to our daughter.”
Brent admits to struggling with feelings of guilt for having survived. But Jessica's parents, who he is now living with while going to college, reassure him that they consider his actions that night heroic.
“We know that he did everything he could for her. We know he knew what to do for her and was in the process of doing it, when that second bullet hit her,” Sandy continued. “So, what do I think of this man? I think the world of him.”
Brent says he's trying to focus on the happy memories with Jessica to get him past the physical and emotional trauma. And he's determined to embrace life again, the way she did.
Despite his injuries, Lowak hasn’t given up on being a firefighter and EMT. He plans to finish his degree in fire science in the spring.