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Colorado shooting victim survived Toronto Eaton Centre shooting
A woman killed when a gunman opened fire in a Colorado movie theatre had survived Toronto’s recent Eaton Centre shooting and wrote in a blog that she was “blessed” to have survived the first incident.
Jessica Ghawi, 24, was among 12 people shot dead early Friday morning when gunfire erupted at a midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo.
Her brother, Jordan Ghawi, confirmed in a blog post that his sister was shot in the attack. The woman had recently moved from Texas to Colorado to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.
She was also dating Toronto-area junior hockey player Jay Meloff, who she met during an interview for an article about concussions.
The two were near the Eaton Centre when the shooting occurred June 2, Meloff told CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney on Friday.
A distraught Meloff struggled to find the words to describe Ghawi, calling her a “kind soul” who made everyone around her happy.
“She smiles and whatever is wrong is gone. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “She never hurt anybody. No matter what they did to her, she would never hurt anybody.”
Meloff said he spoke to his girlfriend on Skype, hours before she went to see the movie.
She also sent him a text message about 10 minutes before the shooting happened.
“She just told me to sleep well and I told her I was jealous she was going to see the movie without me,” Meloff said.
Meloff also said he was planning to visit Ghawi in Denver next week.
Ghawi wrote and tweeted about hockey under the name Jessica Redfield.
In her last blog post, dated June 5, 2012, Ghawi wrote in great detail about her experience shopping at the Eaton Centre moments before gunfire rung out, killing two people and injuring several others.
“Who would go into a mall full of thousands of innocent people and open fire? Is this really the world we live in?” she wrote.
According to the post, Ghawi was at the mall to get sushi and go shopping during a vacation to Toronto. She stepped outside just moments before gunfire erupted.
“I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant,” Ghawi wrote.
“Instead of walking in, sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick.
“I rushed through my dinner. I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.”
Ghawi wrote that she had a funny feeling after eating and decided to head outside for some fresh air instead of shopping at the nearby SportChek.
“The gunshots rung out at 6:23. (sic) Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire,” she wrote.
Meloff confirmed that the blog post was true and recalled the pair’s close call in the Eaton Centre shooting less than two months earlier.
“If we had eaten sushi we would have been right in the food court when it happened,” said Meloff. “Instead, we were just above it.”
Meloff said there really was no way to describe surviving the Eaton Centre shooting, only to have his girlfriend killed in another public shooting.
Ghawi post said she stayed near the mall and watched as paramedics rushed a young, shirtless boy into an ambulance. She said the moment eventually overtook her, and she was left feeling nauseous.
“My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest,” her post concluded.
“The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.”
On his personal website, brother Jordan Ghawi detailed the series of events leading to her death. According to the note, Ghawi was in the middle of the theatre with a friend when a gas canister was thrown into the crowd and shots were fired.
According the post, Ghawi and her friend ducked behind cover and attempted to call police. Ghawi was shot in the leg, and later it appeared she was shot in the head. Her friend also suffered gunshot wounds while trying to assist Ghawi, and was forced to flee the theatre.
Ghawi’s boyfriend told CTV Toronto that he hoped people wouldn’t remember the actions of the gunman but would instead focus on remembering the victims.
“I’m angry that it’s senseless,” he said. “There’s no reason for that happen.”
It was a message echoed by Ghawi’s brother, who said he wanted everyone to know about his sister, who was chasing her dreams as a broadcaster when her life was cut short.
“I want the victims to be remembered, rather than this coward,” Jordan Ghawi told CNN Friday evening.
Jordan Ghawi said his family’s next step would be to take his sister’s remains home.
“We want to bring her home and celebrate her life with her family, friends and anybody that she has somehow touched,” he said.
Tributes to the young sportscaster came across Twitter on Friday.
The You Can Play Project, a program founded by the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, said she was working there as an intern.
“We will miss her intelligence, kindness and work ethic greatly,” they wrote on Twitter.
Moments before Friday morning’s shooting in Colorado, Ghawi exchanged tweets with Sporting News NHL writer Jesse Spector, teasing him for missing the early showing of the highly-anticipated Batman movie.
“Words are useless. Guns more so. If you ever had any interaction with @JessicaRedfield, you know the world is much worse off without her,” Spector tweeted on Friday.
With files from CTV Toronto's Matthew Coutts and Austin Delaney.