Friday July 20th, 2012. 8:18 AM.
My knees buckled and I began to sob uncontrollably. That was the moment I saw Greg Wyshynski from Yahoo’s Puck Daddy tweet, “RIP @JessicaRedfield…gone but not forgotten.”
I hadn’t known Jessica for very long but it was at that moment that for the first time in my life, someone that I interacted with and quickly referred to as a friend had been murdered. In fact, Jessica and I had exchange tweets less than 24 hours prior to my finding out about the horrible events that had occurred in Aurora, CO. Not being one to shy away from dreaming big, we talked about how great it would be to be Shea Weber’s agent that morning of the 19th (Shea Weber had just signed a 14 year, $110 million contract).
My last contact with Jessi was her sending me a link to take online courses to become a sports agent.
To me, that was Jessica’s legacy that will live as long as the sun rises; living dreams. The story of her picking up and moving to Denver from her home in San Antonio has been well documented over the last year since that night. In that move, she proved to herself, her friends and family that she was one of the most courageous people to ever breathe. She could have stayed home, or at the very least, in Texas to pursue her dream of sports journalism. After all, Texas is a very proud state when it comes to our athletics, ranging from high school football to the championship legacy of the Cowboys, Longhorns, Spurs and Stars.
However, inspired by her friend and eventual colleague, Peter Burns, who made a similar venture, Jessica moved to Colorado to attend school and quite honestly, put her hand in every cookie jar that pertained to sports media. Radio, television and print media; it didn’t matter to Ghawi, and frankly, she kicked ass at every single medium she touched.
StarsInsider was just a month old on July 20th. I had been writing for a couple of other sites when this fabulous opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t until that day that I realized that I had to submerse myself into this world. The outpouring of words and respect and sorrow were quickly replaced by feelings of celebration and unity. Only surpassed by 9/11 have I ever seen a group of people who were bound together by one outside force (in this case, hockey). We came together and stories were told, shoulders were cried on and people were even called upon to pick each other up and hold them until they could feel the earth beneath their feet again.
I have said thanks to Jessica, I have come across the most amazing people in the world that I may or may not have ever crossed their paths had it not been for her existence. Jesse Spector, who I have no doubt I would have come across as an aspiring hockey writer myself, said to me, “That was one of the things Jessi did best: bring people together.” Since seeing Spector’s name on Jessica’s twitter feed as being the last person she interacted with outside of the theater, I have grown to value Jesse on a far deeper level than just his writing capabilities.
Peter Burns, Caity Kauffman and Emily Allen are spread across the country from one another, yet they knew Jessica best. Together, their stories have inspired laughter and tears and if it wasn’t for magnetic personality of “Red,” I don’t believe I would have come across these fine individuals who, as a whole, have helped me in becoming a little better of a person. I would encourage everyone to take the time to read the thoughts of Caity and Emily as their words are the only ones that have done Jessi’s life any justice when sharing just how amazing she truly is.
Then there is her amazing family that I was so deeply honored to meet just this past May. To finally wrap my arms around her mother, Sandy and shake the “solid-as-a-rock” hand of her stepfather, Lonnie, was a relief. The strength and poise that these two parents have shown in the absolute worst moment of their lives is nothing short of inspiring. It’s easy to see where Jessi got her magnetic personality. In fact, half way through our dinner, my old son wanted to get out of his seat so he could sit with “Grandma Sandy.” A few days later, we were able to meet Jessi’s brother, Jordan, who for no other way to put it fascinates me. His ability to live life to its absolute fullest draws people to him and just like with his mother, my kids were naturally drawn to him and his interaction with them was just amazing.
Just as Nicole Auerbach wrote in her article today, Jessica isn’t gone…she’s everywhere. Where ever there is a dreamer and a hill to climb, she’s behind that person providing inspiration and determination. Despite never having an opportunity to meet her in person, I was blessed to feel her presence as I stood next to New Jersey Devil’s GM, Lou Lamarillo at the USA Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Dallas last October. On the surface, I am generally a shy person, especially when it comes to hockey minds like Mr. Lamarillo that I’ve looked up to for years, so it was no surprise that I felt this calming presence and the next thing I know, after his media availability was over, Lou stood there with me for what seemed like 30 minutes (was probably closer to 3-5) and we just talked about the 2000 Cup Finals between his Devils and my Stars.
I know Jessica was in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago for the NHL Draft. I made sure of it as a donned a turquoise neck tie along with a bright pink shirt that “would stop New York traffic.” I was living my dream and it was in large part because I met someone who was also living her dream and I was able to see that it could be done. Being the Star Wars nerd that I am, I now associate a line from the original film from 1977 directly to Jessi and the legacy that she has given us all. “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” In one line, Obi Won Kenobi recognized the evil that stood before him but insisted that in the end, good will prevail. From the way Anderson Cooper reports the news on CNN to scholarships that bear Jessica’s name with the JRG Foundation, good is prevailing. Wounds will be opened up this week, but they’ll heal a little faster as those who knew Jessica will share their stories of joy, despair and rebuilding. These stories will never have an ending, which is fitting. Neither will the impact of Jessica Redfield Ghawi.