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Colorado Tragedy Claims the Life of Hockey Fan Jessica Ghawi

The mass shooting at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., is horrible in so many ways. Innocent people lost their lives, or were injured, while they just tried to have a good time seeing one of the hottest movies of the summer in the middle of the night.

One of the victims was 25-year-old Jessica Ghawi, whose nom de plume was Jessica Redfield. Originally hailing from San Antonio, she moved to the Denver area to pursue her dream of sports reporting–specifically about hockey. She’d covered the AHL San Antonio Rampage as an intern, was moving up to reporting on the Colorado Avalanche and interned for the You Can Play Project. To get personal for a moment, she was like me in many ways: young women who love hockey and want to report on it for a living. How heartbreaking it is to see someone with a bright future have it so suddenly, tragically extinguished.

Ghawi narrowly managed to escape a June shooting at the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto: in the food court merely minutes before chaos broke, she got a strange feeling that compelled her to go outside. That kept her safe from the tragedy that claimed a life and hurt seven others.

But this time she was in a relaxed, unguarded state, watching a Batman movie in what was surely a crowded theater with her friend Brent Lowek. Lowek sprang into action when the gunman, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, entered the theater, threw a can of tear gas and began to shoot. Ghawi was shot in the leg and Lowek began to administer first aid, continuing even after he too was shot in the lower half of his body. He continued to assist her until he realized she was suddenly very quiet. She was shot in the head. Her brother’s blog about the tragedy, which details Lowek’s heroism and his attempts to try to learn about his sister, is hard to read.

Movie theaters, malls, airports, buses, sports arenas–these and other public places should be safe. These are places where people go to try to forget their troubles, to have fun, to spend good times with the people who matter to them most. Movie theaters are supposed to be especially peaceful: quiet, in the darkness, enjoying something mutually with people you know and like-minded strangers, you’re relaxed. You don’t expect anything terrible to happen, at least not to the people in the stadium seating. People should be free to enjoy their lives in public without the possibility of being hurt or killed senselessly.

Perhaps that view, though, has been proven rather idealistic by tragedies such as these. But I’m going to hold on to it as a vision for the future.

Ghawi will never get to live out the full extent of her dreams. Nor will anyone else who was killed in this tragedy. May the victims rest in peace and may their loved ones find comfort and care as they attempt to cope.