BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – She watched the gunman enter the parking lot of the Boulder King Soopers, opening fire and killing the first victim of 10 innocent lives. Emily Giffen, 27, was sitting outside of the grocery store on March 22 when the first shots were fired.

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Confused, at first, she and a complete stranger watched helplessly and in shock as a gunman fired multiple rounds into the first victim.

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“It was just a normal day,” Giffen told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “And we just heard this ‘Pop-pop-pop.’ He just fell.”

Giffen said she knew it wasn’t fireworks, and then the gunman turned toward her direction.

“This girl screamed at me and asked, ‘What do we do?’ and I grabbed her and said, ‘We run.’ We just had to run,” Giffen said.

Giffen and the woman were able to get away, but the other victims were not as fortunate. Three King Soopers employees, two contractors, four shoppers and one Boulder Police officer were killed in Monday’s shooting.

“These people in here are my friends and family. They are my neighbors and community,” Giffen said as she choked up.

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In the days that followed, Giffen found herself confused, distraught and alone at times. However, sometimes those emotions were replaced by comfort and peace by visiting the ever-growing memorial outside of the store. An entire block of fencing has been covered with flowers, pictures, notes and candles.

“I don’t want this to be real, but seeing this brings me peace,” Giffen said.

Giffen said the memorial is mostly comforting, but can also bring back tragic memories.

“I don’t really know what to do with myself,” Giffen said. “It feels good to be here, to see the beauty in the community. But then it gets scary because it is real. Because this really happened. This is the story of my life I am going to have to tell that somebody forced on me.”

While coping with the loss of her peers, Giffen said she is working to prioritize her mental health. She, and many others, have sought counseling. She said she encouraged others to do the same.

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Though the memories of the day her life changed will likely always stick with her, she said the support of the community around her helps the wounds heal quicker.

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“I’d rather be (at the memorial) than alone,” Giffen said. “We are all in it together. Boulder strong.”

Dillon Thomas