Aurora victim Jessica Redfield escaped Toronto shooting
Jessica Redfield was killed in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning. / Courtesy of Jessica Redfield, Twitter Image
By Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY
USA Today sports
Hours after news broke of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the photographs started circulating - images of a pretty, red-haired woman with a big smile on her face.
Jessica Redfield, a young sports broadcaster/blogger from Texas who was an intern at a Denver radio station, was one of the 12 people killed in the shooting. Redfield (whose given last name was Ghawi) loved hockey, writing and social media. Her brother, Jordan, confirmed her death on Twitter and his personal blog early Friday morning.
"Remember that smile and … what she could have done," Jordan Ghawi told KUSA in Denver. Ghawi said he and his parents are devastated over a shooting that seems "completely senseless at this time."
Just over a month ago, Redfield survived a shooting that killed one person on the site and left a handful of other people wounded in the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto. Redfield reflected on her near-death experience on her blog, writing, "I can't get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won't go away. … It's hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting."
She said that she chose a burger over sushi and then decided to go outside to get fresh air because she had a strange feeling. Had she not gone out, she would have been standing in the food court during the shooting.
"I was shown how fragile life was," Redfield wrote. "I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. … I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted.
"Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."
When asked about Redfield's final blog entry, former colleague Joe Kinsey spoke slowly.
"It's hard to fathom that she experienced that and then this happened," Kinsey said, swallowing. "It's almost like she was writing about her own death. The thing to remember is she only wrote two pieces on that blog. One was the first hockey post that I ever saw and the other one was the tragedy in Toronto. It's unreal to think that that is what she left. It boggles my mind."
Kinsey, the editor-in-chief of sports/entertainment site BustedCoverage.com, said Redfield contributed to his site, writing mostly about hockey. Kinsey learned of Redfield's passing early Friday morning through social media.
"I saw somebody had retweeted a message that Jessica Ghawi had died, aspiring sportscaster," Kinsey said. "I was like, 'OK I need to look that up.' I need to see who this person was. When I did a Google search, I just couldn't believe it. I was literally shaking."
Redfield moved to Denver a year ago and had been interning for 104.3 The Fan. She was also an intern for the You Can Play Project, an LGBT organization that supported fairness and equality in the locker room. She also worked with local sports teams to donate gear to families who lost their belongings in recent wildfires, her brother and friends said.
"She knew how important it was to serve other people and make them happy," said MC/announcer Mike Lavender, who first met Redfield during the San Antonio Rampage's 2009-10 season. "If she was around, it was always a good time. There was always a smile. I've never seen her down or with her head in the sand.
"She had a good heart and a good soul, truly."
Said Jordan Ghawi: "She conveyed passion and inspired people to do great things. … She wanted to help, and that's the type of heart she had. That's the type of person she was."
Lavender describes Redfield as a young journalist destined to succeed because she excelled at networking and cared deeply about her craft. Kinsey remembers Redfield as a driven journalist who aspired to work in TV.
"There are very few times on the Internet that you come across people who are genuine," he said. "She was."
Said Lavender: "She (was) just a sports nut, not just one of those girls who pretends to like sports so that she seems cool and guys dig her. She truly loved sports, with hockey being her passion. … She was tenacious and vivacious."
Jordan Ghawi said his parents are home in San Antonio beginning their grieving process. He's trying to keep the focus on celebrating Redfield's life instead of on the suspected shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes.
"It's hard to think, seeing that face, knowing this is the person that's taken away my sister's life," Ghawi said. "Focusing on that isn't going to do me any good. It's a celebration, it's moving forward and getting on and doing something to remember my sister."