This story starts in unspeakable terror, a crowded theater in Aurora when a killer opened fire.
And before he was finished, he had taken the lives of 12 people, and injured dozens more. You know that part of this story, I am sure.
Among the fallen was 25-year-old Jessica Ghawi. We have mutual friends, but I never met her in person. I liked her, though. We chatted on Twitter over a mutual appreciation for sports and silliness, and when she went to Denver to pursue her dream of a career in sports journalism, I wished her all the best.
So I gasped Friday morning when I read the news. And my heart broke in a million pieces for her brother Jordan, who has been amazingly courageous in the face of unimaginable grief.
And then, when I saw the posts from my friend Emily, those million pieces broke into a million more.
Emily, who once interned at a station where I worked, is a brilliant young writer and journalist, a vibrant and funny girl with a generous and loving spirit. As long as I’ve known her, I’ve thought that if my daughter grows up to be like her, I will have done OK.
Emily was also Jessica’s best friend. In her incredibly poignant blog post about the tragedy, you can read her thoughts on what made Jessica so special.
Saturday night after the shootings, I was baking, and tweeted that I was “pounding the hell out of graham crackers. They’re for a cheesecake crust but also because I just feel pissed off.” Then “if anyone wants any ‘screw you senseless violence cheesecake bars,’ they’ll be ready in about an hour.”
Emily responded — and asked if I could send some to her in South Bend, where she’s a television producer. I asked if she would be home for Jessica’s service. She said she wanted to, but flights were expensive and she just couldn’t swing it.
And I believe my exact thoughts were, “Oh hell, no.”
Because y’all? I can’t turn back time. I can’t bring back Jessica. But I knew I couldn’t sit by and let Emily miss a chance to honor her friend.
So I sent some messages to my friend Jennifer Ramirez, who was in from the word go, got her advice on an easy way to set up a mini-fundraiser, and Sunday morning, I sent out one tweet asking for help.
People I knew — and people I didn’t — picked up that request, chipped in to help, posted the link on message boards, passed the link on, and started helping.
And within a matter of minutes, I had one especially awesome message from my friend Nan Palmero. He had a round-trip ticket available on Southwest he wanted to give Emily.
And when I told him he was awesome (which BTW he totally is), he said “God put it on my heart, the choice was not mine.”
Tonight, Emily booked her trip to San Antonio. In addition to Nan’s gift, people donated almost $500 to help buy her a ticket. She’s passing that on to a scholarship fund set up in Jessica’s name. Saturday, when Jessica’s life is celebrated and remembered, Emily will be here, where she should be.
I’m glad Emily let me ask for help. I’m glad the internet is filled with people who want to help a friend, and in some cases, a total stranger. I’m glad Nan pays attention when God puts something on his heart.
And I’m glad that tonight, this story that starts in the worst way possible, has come to the point where even in the darkness, I hear notes of hope’s song still playing.
Beauty in the ashes.
If you want to donate to the Jessica Redfield Scholarship fund, you can do that through this website: http://www.indiegogo.com/OfficialJessicaRedfieldFund