Jessica Ghawi, Jessica Redfield in bylines, was by all accounts a likable, hardworking young journalist doing a hell of a job trying to make it in a tough field. We've all been there, which is why her death in today's Aurora movie theater shooting is being taken so hard by the sports media.
We never met Jessica, but you don't need to meet someone to feel like you know her, not in this age of blogs and Twitter. But we figured the best thing we could do is turn the stage over to those who worked with her, and let her professional reputation speak for itself.
Cheryl Bradley at Mile High Hockey, for whom Jessica covered the Avalanche:
Jessica became my friend over the last year. She was starting a career in sports journalism, and I regularly picked her brain. She was granted the ever-elusive Avalanche press credentials, and from our seats, AJ and I often watched her doing her thing in the press box. She was smart, friendly, and amazing. A red head through and through, she was a ball of energy and fire, with a quick wit and an infectious personality.
This morning I was going to share with you all a story I wrote abut a young hockey player who's trying out for the Cutthroats in August. It's a multi-piece story that would follow his path from training until after the free agent camp. I met this player through Jessica last April. His name is Jay Meloff, and he was her boyfriend. Jessica and I shot messages back and forth to each other, brainstorming the article. Jay and I finally got together for the interview, and I finished the article last night, shortly before the shootings began in Aurora.
Jay's story includes roadblock after roadblock as he pursued his goals of playing in the AHL and NHL. Every time things were going well for him, something came in to stop him. He always found a way through, though, relying on a strength of will and character. This is the biggest roadblock of them all, however, as a big reason he wanted to be on the Cutthroats was to be close to Jessi.
We lost a wonderful woman and budding sports journalist last night.
Jessica, in her days as an intern for KTKR radio, attempting to interview members of the San Antonio rampage, but wearing the wrong shoes:
There's no way to make sense of what happened on the large scale, and it's even harder to process on the small scale-the sudden death of a friend. I certainly considered Jessica that, even though we had met only twice in person and exchanged a few emails about the challenges of being a young journalist. That's the power of Twitter, but even more the power of her personality. We met in New York last fall when she was in town visiting her boyfriend, and we went out for beer after a Rangers-Predators game. Last week, I saw her again in Toronto, again gathered around a bar table with other hockey writers.
Jessica was opinionated about everything, but in a much less obnoxious way than most of us. Her Twitter bio was a perfect example of how snappily yet sweetly she could express herself in just a few words: "You can find me in the TV studio, NHL arena/locker room, on a plane, or writing. Southern. Sarcastic. Sass.Class.Crass. Grammar snob." Only re-typing that do I notice the Oxford comma, which she had expressed her love for on Thursday afternoon, in our second-to-last exchange on Twitter. How can you not enjoy someone who uses four exclamation points in a punctuation lovefest?
The staff of You Can Play, where intern Jessica was organizing a series of PSAs from members of the hockey media:
Our staff is despondent today over the loss of our intern Jessica Redfield. We will miss her intelligence, kindness, and work ethic greatly.
Many people donating to us in Jessica's honor. While we are incredibly grateful, we ask that everyone wait until the family decides what charity, if any, they would like donations to go to.
When Jessica first moved to Colorado from San Antonio, she reached out to me on Twitter. I am so glad that she did, because I always strive to be open and receptive to those who are looking to network, or just talk hockey, or need help with a project.
In fact, that's the reason why I started The Hockey Guild - to help others, to promote the game, to bring people together. Whether it's a charity hockey tournament or helping hockey players get a chance to skate on Pepsi Center ice…or it's meeting with a girl that just moved from Texas to Colorado in order to further pursue her passion for sports broadcasting.
I am always there to help others, and I'm fortunate to have been there to help Jessica.
Right away, I knew that she was really ambitious. She was also very confident, but in no way, shape or form did she come off cocky or too good for anyone. She knew she had writing and broadcasting talent, and like her deep fiery red hair and a piercing cacophony of multicolored irises, she dug into your heart, and proved her passion was there.
She wanted so much to be a part of the Avalanche hockey community, and in the short time she was in Colorado, she definitely accomplished that.
Although I wouldn't say Jessica and I were considered "close" friends, I knew she appreciated what I did for her, and she respected the fact I could help her. She was always kind to me when we chatted on Facebook, she was always wanting to hear what I had to say about life, or how tough it can be to cover hockey in a football-dominated market like Colorado.
I totally smiled after meeting with her for a few times. Even though I was brutally honest with her in terms of the lack of coverage local media gave to the Avalanche, she didn't give a flying fuck. She was going to find a way to make it out there.
And sure enough, she did.
"Jessica Redfield? The girl from Twitter?"
That was my initial reaction. "The girl from Twitter." It's such a shitty, impersonal response. "The girl from Twitter."
In 2012, connections are made with people in such vastly different ways than as recent as 10 years ago. I don't remember the first time Jessica replied to one of my tweets, but she was always funny when she did. That's how I become aware of people that I follow, and it didn't take long for me to start following her.
Once I did, it didn't take long for her to DM me. She was young and new in the sports reporting business and wanted advice from me for some reason. Looking back at those DMs from last year, I can only see what she wrote to me. Based on her response - "FINALLY! Some1 thats honest w/ me!" - my advice was either really great or really salty and teeming with bitterness. I imagine it was the latter.
She said if I was ever in Denver, she would love to pick my brain. In a show of bad timing, I had just gotten back from Denver about a month earlier. She said to e-mail her if I had any other nuggets of wisdom, but I never did. I sort of regret that now, because I'm sure at some point in our e-mail exchanges I would have told her to find another business to use her obvious smarts because this one will rip your soul from your body and maybe I could have scared her into another profession in another city far away from Aurora.
My favorite story involving her has to do with Kevin Weekes. At an Avs game in Denver, she happened to be seated next to him. I received a DM about it. I told her to wait until intermission and introduce herself. It's Weekesy. He's the nicest guy on the planet. Just say hello to him. He'll be great about it.
I'm pretty sure she never mustered up the courage to say hi, but that was endearing. You don't meet - or get to know via a social media construct - a lot of people in the business who aren't pushy or carry a sense of entitlement. She had that "oh, he's probably busy and I don't want to bother him" attitude. Like I said, endearing.
Jay Koot at Busted Coverage, where Jessica blogged about hockey for a time:
Jessica had a writing stint with BC, working on hockey posts. It was your typical blog/Internet writing relationship. She understood the madness on this site and was willing to come on to learn the ropes and have fun writing about the sport she loved.
More than anything, Jessica just wanted to be involved. Soon there were calls on how to work through issues on WordPress and her throwing out post ideas. There were calls in the afternoon and calls in the evening. She would update me on where she was; Vancouver, Vegas, Avalanche games. It was the life all 20-somethings dream about.
What can I really say?
Jessica was headed for big things in life. She could write, had a huge personality and possessed that Texan drive that was going to eventually pay off with a great career in hockey.
She leaves this life with lessons for all of us. Every day is a gift. Don't take tomorrow for granted. Keep pushing and driving yourself.
Sounds so cliché until you lose someone to a senseless massacre.
Chris Bianchi, of Mile High Sports, where Jessica was scheduled to interview today:
Twenty-four-year-old Jessica Ghawi (Redfield) was ready to take in The Dark Knight Rises at Aurora's Century 16 movie theater, just hours before she was scheduled to meet with Mile High Sports Magazine editor-in-chief Doug Ottewill to go over options for her promising sports journalism career. A San Antonio native, Jessica had moved to Colorado just a year prior at the beckoning of Mile High Sports Radio morning host Peter Burns, and Jessica had developed friendships with several Mile High Sports colleagues, her infectious enthusiasm for hockey – and life – making her an obvious candidate for a position with the company.
When I arrived at the office at 6:15 this morning, Peter's head was slumped down, unable to comprehend the loss of his former intern from his days at Ticket 760 in San Antonio, and now his good friend in Colorado. A frazzled Peter needed my assistance just to do something he'd done 34,396 times prior: tweet.
"Can you look over this? I can't really think right now." Peter asked me, before offering a quick social media tribute to his former intern.
At a Colorado Avalanche press box littered with crusty sports reporters, Jessica's bright red hair was impossible to ignore. It didn't take long for me to pick out the vibrant newcomer myself this season. And sure enough, I happened to find myself sitting next to her at several Avs games, where we bonded by being among the few people under the age of 40 in the press box, often sitting behind rows of grumpy-looking middle-aged scouts.
Jessica's hockey knowledge hit me – and everyone else who got to know her – like a ton of bricks, not quite fitting the stereotype of a Texas girl in her mid-20s. She wasn't exactly shy to express her opinion – from Matt Duchene switching between center and left wing to Erik Johnson's progression as a defender – about the game. Roughly half the time, I simply shut my mouth and pretended to know what she was talking about; the girl knew her hockey.
More recently, Jessica was busy trying to set up a charity for victims of the wildfires, and incorporating her passion for the love of hockey to try and set up the donation of hockey equipment to the victims of the recent blazes.
Just yesterday, just freakin' yesterday, I was swapping Twitter direct messages with her about possible internships she was looking at, asking my advice about them, asking if the Denver Post had one I could maybe help her out with.
Jessica was a blogger and worked as an intern for a local radio station. She came to a lot of Avalanche games, gathering sound from players after games and things like that. She was a regular part of the media crew that were at a lot of games.
I got to know her and gave her advice about the business. I guess I kind of took her under my wing a little. For one thing, us gingers stick together, and she looked a lot like my kid sister. I knew that she was very ambitious and wanted to advance along into the world of sports journalism, and I always like seeing young people like that. It's a great way to relieve one's own youth, remembering how I was the same way once.
She talked about moving into a new apartment soon from the Capital Hill area to a more affordable place in Aurora, and how excited she was for that – because she would be living in her very own place with no roommates. She talked about how well things were going with her boyfriend. I felt like a big brother to her. She was very smart and very funny. Just a nice person. She definitely would have made it in the sports media business.
Last year, Busted Coverage asked Ghawi why she used the professional name Redfield. She responded "It's my grandma's maiden name. She always wanted to be a journalist, never had the chance."
We'll update this page with more remembrances. If you see any we missed, send them along.