Aurora shootings spoil Franklin’s journey

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
2:17
PM ET
LONDON -- Missy Franklin was on Twitter at the time, thumbing through her news feed and trying to stay connected with the people and things she cares about most when she came across an update that sent her world into a tailspin.

Some 15 minutes from where she lives, in the same Colorado town where she attends St. Regis Jesuit High School, there had been a shooting at a premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Several were dead. Many more were injured. Franklin was certain one of her closest friends had gone to see the film. He had been eagerly talking about it for weeks.

These were supposed to be the greatest days in her 17-year-old life. She had just stolen the show at the U.S. Olympic trials and was now training with her U.S. teammates in France in preparation for her first Olympics and likely her official worldwide coming-out party. But now she was worried that some of her closest friends back home might be injured. Or worse, dead.

“I was absolutely horrified,” Franklin said. “It was horrible. So senseless.”

Though it was 3 a.m. in Colorado, she texted her mom, DA, who was already awake. Back and forth they went. How are you? What happened? Have you heard from anyone?

And all she could do was wait. The six-hour time difference made it even harder. DA Franklin texted U.S. women’s coach Teri McKeever, asking McKeever to check in on Missy and help support her. Missy’s club coach, Todd Schmitz, who lives in Aurora, Colo., was there, as well.

McKeever had not yet heard about the tragedy. But upon realizing what DA was talking about, she immediately went to Missy’s room.

“I wanted to see for my own eyes that she was OK,” McKeever said. “I knocked on the door with sort of a, ‘How are you doing?’ and talked about how when you grow up you see more and more hard things,” McKeever said. “And that’s kind of what sucks sometimes about growing up. And then I told her if she needed something I was right there.

“She was upset. But it wasn’t unusual. It was like all of us that day. What happened was crazy. I wanted to make sure that she had her space to deal with it.”

As the day progressed, word trickled in that neither Franklin nor Schmitz’s friends were among the 12 who suspect James Holmes shot and killed or the 58 more he injured. Franklin’s close friend had in fact gone to a midnight showing of the movie. But he had done so somewhere else.

And as much as that was a relief, Franklin’s emotions then shifted to sorrow for those had not received such positive news.

And so Sunday morning in the preliminary heats of the 100-meter backstroke, when she dips into the water for the first time, Franklin will swim with her home state at least partly on her mind. Not only has Colorado weathered the horrific shooting, but also the 29-square mile wildfire that was the worst in the state’s history.

“Right now, what I can do here is swim my heart out and hopefully make my state proud and give a little bit of fun for the tough summer Colorado has had,” Franklin said.

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