Finding a Light Amid Darkness, What We Learned From Jessica Redfield

Her name was Jessica Ghawi, but most hockey fans and bloggers knew her has Jessica Redfield. She was an aspiring sportscaster and appeared to have a very bright future in that field. Sadly, Jessica was among those killed in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning.

The reaction to this news has been widespread and overwhelmingly heartfelt.

Jessica made her presence known in the hockey community, starting out as an intern for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and later working with the You Can Play Project, networking with professionals from all angles of the hockey profession and blogging for her own site as well as Busted Coverage.

One of the wonderful things about social media is that, while somewhat impersonal, there is a sense of connection that it brings. The hockey community’s already strong bond has only intensified via outlets like Twitter, where the sharing of ideas and thoughts, constructive debates and genuine friendly conversation give way to expanding one’s network of friends and colleagues.

Few seemed to know how to do that better than Jessica, whom I never met in person, but whose personality shone through in her work.

Many people jump to find a way to relate to a tragedy, to find a connection that hits close to them. It’s a very human reaction. We want to understand, we want to be a part of it.

Some see it as trivializing tragedy or attention seeking to try and make that connection.  While that’s true in some cases, there is something quite genuine about the overwhelming reaction to Jessica’s death. A lot of that has to do with just how many people she touched, either in person, over the phone or online.

No matter how superficial a relationship built through social media can seem, there are a lot of people who felt like they knew Jessica and now there are thousands more that wish they knew her better, including me.

When tragedy strikes, it’s difficult to find the positives and this is no different. However, as you see through people’s reactions on Twitter, in blogs and columns and comments, Jessica Redfield had a profound impact on many.

Jesse Spector of Sporting News was the last person to receive a message from Redfield before the movie last night. He wrote beautifully about Jessica and her drive and personality.

Jessica Redfield was going to be a sportscaster, and she was going to be a good one. She was sharp, funny, enthusiastic and had the kind of passion for sports and journalism that makes people succeed.

The world is a worse place without her after the movie theater shooting in Colorado that robbed all of us of a chance to see her reach her goals.

Longtime hockey writer Adrian Dater felt like an older brother figure to the aspiring journalist.

Their recounts of this young lady, just 24 years old, with all the aspirations and dreams many of us can relate to, remind us of a few things.

For one, it reminds us that this tight-knit community of hockey writers, bloggers, fans and whoever else is one that looks out for each other. One that supports each other and one that is always willing to help. It’s amazing how simply loving the game can bond people rather instantaneously. It makes it all the more important when tragedy strikes.

Their recounts of the young journalist also inspire. The passion within the Texas native with a shock of red hair, was indeed firy. A go-getter through and through, and talented. According to Busted Coverage, she chose to go by the last name of Redfield because it was her grandmother’s maiden name. “She always wanted to be a journalist, never had the chance,” Redfield said. This was a woman on a mission.

There are so many men and women like Jessica Redfield across the country, who aspire to bigger things, but how many leave such an indelible impact on so many before ever reaching their final goal?

Caity Kauffman, an aspiring journalist herself and a friend of Redfield’s, one made through social media, was one of those left inspired.

Unfulfilled potential is heartbreaking. But the way your dynamic potential was ripped from you by the bullet of a stranger rocks me to the core in a disturbing and dark way. Your fierce ambition and motivation was so precious and rare. So much anger boils inside of me for the future you wanted so badly but now won’t get the chance.

But don’t worry, Jessica. I won’t give up on my passions – it’s fearless, firecracker women like you who pave the way for the rest of us.

Making this all the more devastating was the fact that Jessica had narrowly dodged a mass-shooting before, at Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Her tweets of that tragedy gave a first-person account of chaos. Despite all the craziness around her, her instincts kicked in. It needed to be recorded and she had the ability to do it, so she did it.

Redfield’s personal account of what happened at Eaton Centre on her blog of what happened makes the latest developments all the more chilling.

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. 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.

What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. 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. 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.

My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rung out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.

This piece, the last on her blog, will likely be part of her lasting legacy. It is yet another example to remind us that this is a person who could have probably gone a real long way in hockey, or anything really.

There will be more people like Jessica Redfield who share her dreams and passion, but sadly, they won’t be her.

To close, here’s video of Jessica Redfield interviewing Coyotes prospect Chris Summers, while interning with the San Antonio Rampage two years ago. Confident, hilarious and, again, talented. Thank you, Jessica, for showing us just how far passion, positivity and determination can go. We’re better for it and we’ll never forget you.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, all those she had an impact on, as well as all those affected by this terrible tragedy. Hug your loved ones tight, and make sure you tell them how you feel every chance you get. — Chris

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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