Heroic Stories from Aurora Shooting

Like the rest of America, I was shocked and disturbed by the news of the Aurora movie theater shooting last weekend.  Sadly, there are becoming fewer and fewer safe places – schools, offices, movies and malls have all been the sites of recent major tragedies.

A lot has been written in the past three days about the shooter as we learn more and more about what a deranged lunatic he is.  On the other side though, just as much has been written about the heroism and bravery that was exhibited by the victims in order to save those around them.  It is easy to lose faith in human-kind after hearing about such a horrific killing spree, but then there are stories from that same incident that restore your faith in humanity.

People completely disregarded their own safety in the heat of the moment in order to help and protect those around them.  Some helped loved ones, while others protected complete strangers.  Three boyfriends died while shielding their girlfriends from the bullets.  There were numerous accounts of people who stayed in the theater to administer first-aid to those around them instead of fleeing to safety.  Impulse decisions that without a doubt saved lives, while risking their own lives.

One particular story of a victim really stuck with me.  Jessica Ghawi passed away after getting shot multiple times early Sunday morning.

She was an aspiring sports journalist who had just moved to Colorado to continue her up-and-coming career. She wrote under the name Jessica Redfield (because that is her grandma’s maiden name and she wanted to be a journalist but never had the chance).  She was seeing the midnight show with a long-time friend and tweeted about it less than an hour before the shooting.

After the shooting began, Jessica and her friend were both hit in the leg and eventually Jessica was shot in the head.  Her friend did everything he could to keep Jessica alive.  Her brother wrote a detailed timeline of events in a blog post early Sunday morning when he had found out what happened.  It is extremely difficult to read.

Everyone that knew Jessica, from her good friends to those who had just had a small interaction with her, said the same thing.  She had an infectious personality and was on her way to becoming a great sports journalist.  Her loss is especially tragic given the blog post that she made on June 5 (her final blog post).  She had narrowly escaped a shooting in Toronto and she wrote about how fleeting life is.

“I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest,” she wrote. “This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. 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.”

“I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing”, she continued.  “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.”

Jessica is one of 12 people who had no business losing their lives that night.  I hope to continue to learn more about the victims and the heroes who helped save others that night.  I know that I will remember Jessica’s story and the message of her final blog post forever.


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