The heartbreaking stories coming out of Aurora, Colorado right now are too numerous to count. And yet we keep coming back to that of Jessica Ghawi. One of 12 victims shot to death by a gunman who opened fire on innocent people as they watched The Dark Knight Rises, the young sports writer, who wrote under the name Jessica Redfield, had just narrowly escaped being killed in a similar situation in Toronto last month.
The twisted irony of it is inescapable. The death of a 24-year-old is unspeakably sad. But I can't help wondering if Jessica's story fascinates as much because of how she makes us feel about ourselves. Take a look at one of her last Tweets to the world:
Never thought I'd have to coerce a guy into seeing the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises with me.
It's eerie, isn't it? Maybe she could have avoided the massacre entirely if she wasn't so convincing. She could have lived. I read that Tweet on Jessica's "Jessica Redfield" Twitter account, and a ripple of fear went through me, followed quickly by a feeling that sank down into my stomach. I wanted to go back in time, to leap through the computer screen, to tell her to turn back.
At 8:27 p.m., Jessica told the world that she actually talked a friend into going to the movies. If she hadn't, if that friend had found something else to do, would they have gone? Would she be here today, writing a blog post similar to the one she wrote just after the shooting in a Toronto mall, when she realized she had left the food court just minutes before a gunman opened fire?
We don't know.
We do know that life is fragile. We know that we can't turn back time, that there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves and to protect our families. We can't blame Jessica's friend for saying, "hey yeah, I'll go with you" or Jessica for wanting to take in a movie on a Thursday night. They did nothing wrong. They were just living their lives .... doing what people do every day.
And that's what's so hard for us to handle. We have no control. Our choices affect our lives, our friends' lives, our families' lives, and yet we decide things with only half the information. We can't foresee horrors like alleged theater gunman James Holmes farther down the road.
We are fascinated by the story of Jessica Ghawi because our heart breaks for her family, because a beautiful young woman is dead. But we can't deny that we are focusing on her today because she represents how little control we have in our own lives.
Here's a look at how Jessica's final words have hit people in her native Texas. Why do you feel drawn to this girl's story?
Image via KHOU