Posted on July 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM
Updated today at 6:26 PM
Rebecca Wingo has been identified as one of the 12 people who were slain early Friday when a gunman opened fire in a suburban Denver movie theater.
Wingo, 32, grew up in the small East Texas town of Quinlan, about 65 miles east of Dallas. She graduated from Ford High School. Her friends say she was funny and always cracking jokes.
Hal Wallace says, "[She had] the sweetest smile you have ever seen, and she got prettier as she grew older," said Hal Wallace.
Wingo left Quinlan to serve her country. She joined the Air Force, became fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and served as a translator.
She moved to Colorado with her two little girls and reconnected with her high school friends on Facebook. In her last post, Wingo talked about her daughters:
âMy little baby started kindergarten today. She is so excited to be in the big girl school with her sister. Oh how the time flies."
In Aurora, Wingo's friend Peter Cheney said he will miss her smile. "Always just full of life, perky... it's just everything about her," he said. "She had an aura around her that just was shining out towards everybody."
Cheney told a story about an experience Wingo had as a server at a restaurant. After a customer lost her purse, Wingo reached into her pocket and gave her more than $100.
As news of Wingo's death reached family and friends in Texas, they, too began posting comments.
Her father, Steve Hernandez, wrote this on Saturday:
"I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man, my grief right now is inconsolable. I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable, Lord why, why, why?"
"In a blink of an eye something happens and completely changes everyone's life forever," Hal Wallace said.
Wingo's friend Marcus Weaver is the last person who saw her alive. He was sitting next to her at the theater in Aurora, Colorado when the shooting started.
âJust him shooting, and this white light, and this 'Boom! Boom! Boom"' and it went off six to eight times," Weaver said. "At that point, my friend Rebecca and a friend next to me, we ducked for cover."
Wingo didn't make it out of the theater, but her family and friends didn't know for sure she had passed away until late Friday night.
And while her death is painful, Wallace says he chooses to remember Wingo during happier times and smiling.
Jessica Ghawi, a San Antonio woman who had recently moved to the Denver area, was also killed in the attack at the Century 16 theater. Only weeks ago, she had been present at a crowded Toronto shopping mall where a gunman shot five people and killed two of them.
The sister of a Houston-area woman was also shot in the Aurora attack.