Remembering Jessica Ghawi A.K.A. Jessica Redfield

Aspiring sports journalist Jessica Redfield was among twelve people senselessly murdered at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. She had just missed possibly being caught in yet another mall shooting in Toronto weeks earlier. (Photo credit: Busted Coverage.)

“Question to get you thinking today: What motivates you?”

That’s what Jessica Redfield tweeted earlier this year.

As family, friends and Twitter followers might say, the 24-year-old, born Jessica Ghawi, who used her grandmother’s maiden name as her professional nom de plume, was motivated by sports.

And it was in her hometown of San Antonio that she started her aspiring sports broadcasting career – as she earned her degree at the University of Texas/San Antonio – as an intern at KTKR/”Ticket 760″, the leading local sports radio station, as well as KABB, the local Fox affiliate. (She also interned for an Austin country station, KVET.)

“Her silliness would literally drive us crazy, but that’s what we liked about her,” said KTKR afternoon host Mike Taylor. One of the memorable moments during her KTKR internship was when she went to conduct interviews with players from the local AHL hockey team and wound up falling on the ice several times. There is a video of this that exists.

Redfield loved hockey. So much so that she maintained an NHL blog, as the resident “pucktress” on Busted Coverage.

“Jessica drove me crazy during her internship,” recalled Jim Breazeale, sports director at KABB – and one-time co-host of “Sports Talk San Antonio” alongside Taylor on KTKR. “I think I fired her at least ten times, always jokingly. She was relentless.”

Proof of Redfield’s relentlessness, as far as her sports media career is concerned, was when she left San Antonio and relocated to Denver last year. It was there that she landed an interning job at KKFN/”104.3 The Fan,” which, in a town with four sports radio stations, was the leading one. And also as was the case in San Antonio, she interned at the local Fox station in Denver, KDVR.

Soon, she would begin writing for Mile High Hockey, a Colorado Avalanche blog on SBNation. And before long, she earned press credentials for the Avalanche, which means she would be seeing players like Ryan O’Reilly very often.

Yet even the smallest of things satisfied her, as evidenced by this tweet in which she evokes a lyric from The Emotions:

“Doesn’t take much to make me happy. Life is good.”

Life should be good. We know it isn’t perfect, but every law-abiding person is entitled to a good life.

Jessica Redfield had a fruitful life ahead of her. She could be interviewing Peyton Manning after a come-from-behind Broncos victory. Or perhaps an Avalanche player after the team wins the Stanley Cup.

Sadly, that life was tragically cut short in the early morning hours of July 20.

Redfield was among the capacity crowd of 300 moviegoers at the Century 16 theater at the Aurora Mall – including a date she had to “coerce” into accompanying her – witnessing the midnight debut showing of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”.

But what unfolded just a half-hour into the PG-13 rated movie was unfathomable, gut-wrenching horror straight out of an R-rated film.

The account as given by Brent Lowak, the aforementioned “coerced” companion of Redfield’s, through Jessica’s brother, Jordan, reads like this on his blog:

“Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than [sic] began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic.”

Below that passage on Jordan’s blog is a post at around 12:30 PM Denver time, informing that he has “received word from the coroner’s office that Jessica has indeed died of injuries sustained in the shooting.”

Unreal. A bright sports broadcasting future, for one of the brightest, friendliest people you would ever meet, doesn’t even reach the second inning, as a result of this senseless, needless attack. Redfield was among a dozen pronounced dead, with nearly five dozen reported injured.

Even more harrowing for Redfield was that just seven weeks earlier, she narrowly escaped a shooting at another mall, Toronto’s Eaton Center. She was “on a mission to eat sushi,” she recalled in a post on her blog. “And when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me.” Yet, she would stray from her trademark relentlessness and decide to go for a “greasy burger”. And in the area of the food court where she wolfed down the burger, before deciding to leave the mall “to get fresh air,” was the same area where the gunman had opened fire. “Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.

“Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone sitting in a movie theater, eventually being in the midst of gunfire.

It’s even more hard to imagine a person experiencing such circumstances twice within fifty days.

“I saw the victims of a senseless crime,” Redfield continued on what would be her final blog post. “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.”

And that’s the one thing that I hope everybody takes from this ordeal. Whether you were just one of Jessica’s Facebook friends, or you were privileged to work with her, or you’re in the sports media industry and potentially could have worked with her.

Indeed, the sports media landscape is mourning Redfield’s death. The NHL realized how passionate Jessica was about hockey and tweeted their condolences. And the fact that Linda Cohn from ESPN, Erin Andrews, formerly of ESPN and now with Fox Sports, and NFL Network’s Michelle Beisner – a Colorado native – recognized her upon her death gives you an idea that Jessica Redfield was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and then some. The talent that she possessed may have earned her a position at one of those three sports entities… but which one would she work for?

Like many others, I wish we could discover what the answer to that question is.

Now, the biggest question we’re left to have answered is: Why?

And someone who really wants an answer is Peter Burns.

It was at Redfield’s internship at KTKR that she befriended Burns, who is currently an on-air morning host at one of Denver’s four sports radio outlets, Mile High Sports Radio. And it was Burns that suggested she move to Denver to see out her sports broadcasting dream.

“Devastated,” he tweeted at around 5:25 AM local time. “Lost a very close friend in the shooting… Jessica came to Denver to pursue [a] sports career. I’m shaking.” In a subsequent tweet, he remembered her “passion for sports,” and how she had been “working hard on raising hockey gear for families that lost [their] gear in [the] wildfire.”

In fact, Jordan Ghawi would meet up with Burns and spend most of the day as a “base camp” honoring interviews about their fallen sister and friend. Of course, Burns would discuss Redfield’s passing as well as the theater shooting on his show earlier in the day. In addition, Mile High Sports has assembled a lovely tribute to her on their website. No matter that Redfield had been working for a competing station – when a tragedy such as this hits, clearly, all of that goes out the window.

And of course, 104.3 The Fan posted their own tribute to Jessica Redfield.

Fittingly, Mile High Hockey also posted a tribute to their beloved blogger – and in an eerie twist of irony, editor Cheryl Bradley had revealed the original piece that was to be published on July 20: an item about a player auditioning for a new team bowing later this year in the Central Hockey League, the Denver Cutthroats. “His name is Jay Meloff,” Bradley wrote, “and he was her boyfriend.”

Not surprisingly, an emotional Meloff poured his broken heart out on Twitter. “140 could never do you justice,” he wrote in a message seemingly directed to Redfield. “Nor could all the words in this world. Never wanted to fall asleep because it meant missing time with you. Every experience in life was amplified beyond my wildest dreams with you.”

Meloff would later write a tweet (as would Burns) imploring followers to tweet the hashtag “#RIPJessica.” She loved tweeting and loved Twitter,” wrote Meloff. “Please send out a tweet to her.”

Jessica Redfield loved Twitter. You could find her tweeting about sports, or life and its “sick and twisted sense of humor.”

Equally, Jessica Redfield loved sports – and had a newfound gratefulness for life after escaping the Eaton Center unharmed. “Every second of every day is a gift,” she wrote in her final blog post on June 5. “I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.”

It’s a shame that Jessica Redfield – known to close friends and family as Jessica Ghawi – had the opportunity to experience a few more billion seconds of life reprehensibly snatched away from her.

Rest in peace, Jessica.

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