tears, but lot of laughs, at 'celebration of her life.'
A near capacity crowd packed one of the largest churches in San Antonio today to remember the woman many of them know as ‘Jessi Red,’ at what was called a ‘Celebration of the Life’ of Jessica Ghawi, 24, the aspiring sportscaster who was one of 12 people killed in the Aurora Colorado movie theater shooting eight days ago.
“I have been to a lot of memorial services in my life, and I have never seen this many people, even when you add all of them together,” said Chuck Micketinac, Sports Director at San Antonio television station KABB, where Ghawi, who was known professionally as Jessica Redfield,’ worked as an intern. “Was there anybody Jessi didn’t know?”
Ghawi, who described herself as a ‘red haired Texas spitfire,’ grew up in San Antonio and moved to Denver last year to pursue a career in sportscasting. She worked for the Colorado Avalanche hockey team and a sports web site.
Friend Jennifer Dodd recalled when Ghawi told her she was moving to Denver to go to college and pursue career opportunities, she told her there were ‘plenty of good colleges here.’
“She said, ‘suck it up woman, you only live once’,” Dodd said
Ghawi was in a mall in Toronto last month and survived a shooting there, writing in her on line blog, “I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. 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.”
She was shot twice, once in the head and once in the leg, as she watched the Batman movie with San Antonio friend Brent Lowak, who was badly wounded.
Jessica’s brother Jordan Ghawi wrote on his blog about the shooting, “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.”
“Jessi was one of those girls who was bigger than life, full of energy,” said Pastor Robert Emmitt, who baptized Ghawi in the Community Bible Church two years ago.
Her mother Sandy Phillips agreed.
“She was a bolt of lightning, you knew that she was in the room because of the burst of energy.”
Much of the hour long service was upbeat, as friends told funny stories about a woman they called ‘talented, spunky, and very often inappropriate.’
Large screens in the church played a video which has gone viral in the past week showing Ghawi repeatedly falling down as she walked onto an ice rink to interview a hockey player as an intern for San Antonio sports radio station KTKR. San Antonio sports talk host Mike Taylor recalled that the first time Ghawi met Spurs Hall of Famer and San Antonio legend David Robinson was when she tripped and fell into him in a hallway at the AT&T Center.
“That girl has been getting me into trouble all my life,” joked Katy Gardner, who said she and Ghawi have been best friends since fifth grade, recalling Ghawi’s ability to ‘trip on an invisible banana peel.’
Many sportscasters talked about Ghawi’s professional potential.
“Big things were going to come from her,” said Larry Ramirez, a sportscaster at San Antonio television station KSAT.
Peter Burns, who knew Ghawi in San Antonio and in Denver and who has become a spokesman for her family, said her relatives are committed to keeping her memory alive.
“They want this to be something that continues on and lives on, so instead of looking at this as an ending, it’s more like a beginning,” Burns said.
He said a fund set up just last week to raise money for women wishing to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and journalism, which her family hoped would collect $10,000 by November has already raised $36,000.
“The last time I talked with Jessi she was asking me for advice on how she could set up a foundation to replace all of the sports equipment children had lost in the Colorado wildfires,” Burns recalled. “She wanted to call the foundation ‘The Little Things,’ and she stressed that she didn’t want her name to be on it at all.”
The Jessica Redfield Foundation has now been created, to follow through on her dream of providing sports equipment to children.
“Right now she is up at God’s great hockey rink, with the most amazing sheet of ice you can imagine,” Ramirez said, choking back tears. “She’s in the press box, she’s getting ready to do the broadcast, and these legends, guys like (Maurice) Richard and Toe (Blake) are all there, and they don’t quite know what to make of Jessi. But she’ll prove again that she can hang with the boys. She can hang with anybody.”