Markos Ayele: His personality was just one of a kind. That was the main guy I laughed with. That’s one thing I wish I could have one more of, just one more laugh.
Adriana: AJ Boik’s signature laugh, smile, and spirit are how best friends like Markos Ayele remember him.
Markos: I remember at graduation, actually, he came up and gave me a big hug and he just kind of like jumped on me and stayed there for a while and he finally got off and it was just – he was just that type of person. He was just so spontaneous.
Adriana: Both just finished high school. Both were in the Century 16 movie theater to see Batman on July 20th. But AJ was in the midnight viewing. Markos was in the 12:10.
Markos: The alarm started going off and they said there was an emergency in the building.
“All available units respond to the theater.”
Markos: Then I found some classmates outside. They explained to me everything that happened. My friend Alejandra got shot. And then Tori was walking around asking like, ‘Have you seen AJ? Have you seen AJ?’ I was like, ‘No, why? What happened?’
“They say there are just hundreds of people running around.”
Adriana: Markos didn’t know AJ was at the theater that night. After not sleeping, Markos and friends kept looking for AJ the next day.
Markos: I still tried to have hope that he was still alive, and then I figured out probably around 8 o’clock…dead.
Adriana: How did you find out?
Markos: This girl, Genny, was actually updating everyone on the status of AJ and then she posted on Facebook. But Alejandra, the one that actually got shot, she gave me a call and told me it was true and I just, like, broke down. Just bawling my eyes out. It was tough.
Adriana: To help deal with the pain, friends, family members, and even complete strangers are coming to this memorial just across the street from the Century 16 movie theater to remember AJ and the eleven others who died and leave a piece of themselves to help the community heal.
Flowers and gifts nearly cover the twelve crosses that represent each of those who died. At AJ’s cross, someone left a baseball cap to honor the former high school catcher.
“Thank you for being here.”
Adriana: At his funeral, AJ’s uncle says his nephew always had a way to make people laugh.
“Smiling is what I will always remember about AJ. That smile that told you he’s thinking of something.”
Adriana: If there was a way for you to speak to AJ, what would you tell him about how you’re going to live your life going forward?
Markos: I would just tell him, like, ‘Thank you. Thank you for me being able to enjoy life, as I did with you.’ And I’m just trying to keep on smiling, just keep on laughing and just keep being myself. That’s all he was, and keep doing that, because he brought that out in me and in everybody.”
Adriana: Adriana Diaz for Channel One News.