COLORADO—Jessica Ghawi was an aspiring sports journalist, an avid hockey enthusiast and a victim of the violence in Aurora Friday morning, July 19, when a lone gunman entered the Colorado theater and began spraying gunfire into the unsuspecting crowd.
A spotlight has been thrust upon Jessica, not for any of the bits of her career or her hobbies, but because Jessica had just escaped a shooting at a Toronto mall one month prior to the incident in Colorado.
At 6:20 p.m., the 24-year-old purchased a burger and poutine, a Canadian dish of fries, curds and gravy, but rather than sit down in Eaton’s food court, she went out to enjoy her meal in the open, drizzling air.
“I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away,” Ghawi wrote. “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.”
Minutes later, gunfire rang out in the mall’s food court.
“I overheard a panicked guy say, ‘There was a shooting in the food court.’ I thought that there was no way, I was just down there. I asked him what happened. He said ‘Some guy just opened fire. Shot about 8 shots. It sounded like balloons popping’.”
Jessica had circled around the perimeter to an exit people were scrambling out of the center as police, fire trucks and ambulances arrived on scene. She witnessed victims being carted off on stretchers, the results of the gunfire on one man and the thoughts racing through her head at that moment.
“It’s not like in the movies when you see someone shot and they’re bleeding continuously from the wound. There was no blood flowing from the wounds, I could only see the holes. Numerous gaping holes, as if his skin was putty and someone stuck their finger in it.”
Jessica who was in the theater shortly after midnight when suspect James Holmes, 24, tossed a smoke grenade into the theater and opened fire, was with her friend Brent. Brent relayed the events to Jessica’s brother Jordan Gwahi who flew from San Antonio upon receiving news of the tragedy. The account of the events as told by Jordan follows:
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 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.
“Of course we're seeing Dark Knight. Redheaded Texan spitfire, people should never argue with me,” Gwahi tweeted shortly before the start of the film. Others on Twitter have begun responding to that tweet, offering their condolences.
Jessica’s words on the Eaton Center shooting were enlightened, caring and thoughtful.
“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,” Jessica concluded.
Jordan strived to ensure that no inordinate amount of time was spent sensationalizing Jessica’s life or death and asked via his blog around 10:25 local Denver time that others involved who lost their lives not be forgotten.
“We will be declining all interviews today in hopes that the media will grant the other victims of this tragedy the same amount of airtime that they gave Jessica yesterday,” Jordan wrote. “Let us learn the stories, and celebrate the lives, of Alex Sullivan (27), Micayla Medek (23), Veronica Moser (6), Matt McQuinn (27), Jesse Childress (29), John Larimer (27), John Blunk, AJ Boik, Alexander Teves, and Rebecca Ann Wingo.”
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