Megan Hyde, 28, is hosting a fundraiser at Suds for three of her friends who were injured in the Colorado theater shooting. (KEVIN CHANG, HB Independent / August 17, 2012)

Megan Hyde arrived at her workplace the morning of July 20 and heard a surprise mention of her former hometown. The surprise was not pleasant.

A co-worker at United Auto Credit asked Hyde, a Huntington Beach resident since April, if she had heard about the mass shooting hours earlier at a theater in Aurora, Colo. Remembering the many times she attended the movies in Aurora while working as a server at Red Robin, Hyde logged onto Facebook to see if anyone she knew had been injured.

As it turned out, none of her former co-workers had posted status updates about the shooting. But the comments that others had posted on their pages told a grim story.

"People were saying, 'Oh my God, I'm sorry. I can't believe this happened to you,'" Hyde said. "That sort of thing."

When she realized that three of her friends had been wounded when a gunman opened fire in the Century movie theater during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," Hyde felt even more devastated that she hadn't been back in Aurora to offer them support.

But this weekend in Huntington Beach, she plans to do exactly that.

Friday night, Hyde will host a fundraiser at Suds Sports Grill to help pay for her friends' medical bills. The event, set to kick off at 6 p.m., features live music, raffles, merchandise sales and more.

Given the cost of medical bills — and the fact that, according to her, two of the three recipients lack insurance — Hyde has no idea how much needs to be raised for their treatment. Her only hope Friday is to do as much as she can.

"I don't know how generous people are going to be," Hyde said. "A couple thousand would be nice. If people give more than that, that would be even better."

*

'I thought it was antics'

Christina Blache — Crispy to her friends — attended the midnight screening in Aurora on a whim. Her colleague, Alex Sullivan, had gotten tickets in advance for the first showing. As word spread around the office, about a dozen co-workers opted in.

Shortly after midnight, Blache was seated in the theater when she thought someone at the front of the theater had thrown a paper airplane. For a highly anticipated comic-book movie, it seemed like a natural part of opening night.

"I thought it was antics that were going on," said Blache, an assistant manager at the Aurora location. "Sometimes, at midnight premieres, they bring people in costume and they duel, or they have a trivia contest or something."

Then the airborne object exploded. As gunfire followed it, Blache and her friends hit the floor as fast as they could.

In Blache's case, it didn't turn out to be fast enough. When she rose from her seat, a bullet passed through both of her kneecaps. She landed on the floor and applied pressure on the wounds with her jeans while her friends screamed around her.

Minutes later, with the gunman gone, one of the friends called the police. Three responders ultimately carried Blache out and set her in a police car, which jumped a curb to transport her to an ambulance.

One of her colleagues never left the theater: Sullivan, a server and middle manager, died next to her on the floor.

In all, seven employees from the Aurora location were killed or injured in the massacre, according to Kevin Caulfield, the company's senior director of communications. The Red Robin Foundation has set up a special fund for the surviving victims and has held fundraisers to help pay for hospital bills, lost wages and other costs.

"If they ask us for the money, we'll do whatever we can to help them," Caulfield said.