Uncle: Victim's 'true character' emerged during Colo. shooting
Published Saturday, July 28, 2012 8:18AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 28, 2012 10:54PM EDT
Funerals took place in Ohio and Texas on Saturday for two young people who were killed during a midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises' at a Colorado movie theatre.
Jessica Ghawi was one of 12 people who died after a masked shooter opened fire in the packed Aurora, Colo. movie theatre on July 20. The 24-year-old aspiring sports journalist was killed less than two months after narrowly avoiding a shooting at a Toronto mall.
Also present at the suburban Denver movie screening was Matt McQuinn, who was accompanied by his girlfriend Samantha Yowler. McQuinn, 27, has been credited with saving Yowler’s life by diving in front of her and taking three bullets.
Both Ghawi and McQuinn, strangers united by tragic circumstance, are being laid to rest in separate funeral services in their respective hometowns on Saturday.
Hundreds of mourners arrived at the Maiden Lane Church of God for a funeral service in McQuinn’s hometown of Springfield, Ohio.
McQuinn’s girlfriend Yowler was in attendance, wearing a black cast around her leg and moving around on crutches. She is recovering from a gunshot wound to her knee.
McQuinn has been hailed as a hero for shielding Yowler during the theatre shooting.
His uncle Pastor Herb Shaffer addressed more than 200 mourners at the funeral service, asking them to be inspired by McQuinn’s actions.
"In moments of crisis, a person's true character comes out," he said during the service. "His immediate response was to protect the woman he loved."
Shaffer said the movie theatre shooting forever changed McQuinn’s family and friends.
"Our lives will never be the same," he said. "The words Aurora, Cinema 16 shooting, Batman, will never mean the same thing, and we'll be reminded of Matt every time we hear them."
One of the pallbearers at McQuinn’s funeral was Yowler’s brother Nick, who also tried to protect his sister during the shooting. Nick was not wounded during the incident.
Pastor Dan Fiorini told mourners that they “can wrestle with the whys of this tragedy for an eternity,” but fail to find answers.
"Matt's death is a sudden loss, one that has produced many questions in your minds," Fiorini said. "I know you're asking in your heart of hearts, why? Why was Matt there? Why was a gunman allowed to enter that theatre? Why was he able to purchase guns and ammunition so easily? Why didn't God do something?"
‘We are taking Jessica home now’
In Texas, mourners gathered in Ghawi’s hometown of San Antonio, where a funeral service took place at a local church. Ghawi had recently moved from the Lone Star state to Colorado to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.
“Thank you Colorado. We are taking Jessica home now,” her brother Jordan Ghawi wrote in a message posted to Twitter on July 26.
At Saturday’s service, Jordan Ghawi briefly mentioned the shooting: "If this coward could have done this with this much hate, imagine what we can do with this much love," he said.
Close friend Brent Lowak had accompanied Ghawi to the Batman movie screening.
Lowak’s mother Sue Greene told The Associated Press that her son tried to help Ghawi after realizing that a bullet had hit her leg. She said Lowak, an aspiring emergency medical technician, was applying pressure to the leg wound as Ghawi screamed.
Only when Ghawi stopped screaming did Lowak realize that she had been shot again, said Greene. She was pronounced dead a short time later.
Ghawi wrote and tweeted about hockey under the name Jessica Redfield.
In a blog posted dated June 5, 2012, Ghawi wrote about her experience shopping at Toronto’s Eaton’s Centre shopping mall moments before gunfire erupted in the food court, killing two people and injuring several others.
Ghawi was dating Toronto-area junior hockey player Jay Meloff, who she met during an interview for an article about concussions. In an interview with CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney, Meloff described Ghawi as a “kind soul” who “would never hurt anybody.”
Saturday, Meloff said while others described her as “a tough, redheaded spitfire,” she was also warmhearted and passionate.
“She was as mushy as they come,” he added.
Meloff said they were looking forward to building a future together and he also encouraged others to do as she did and "live each day fully."
"She drank in life," he said.
Ghawi’s loved ones described the 24-year-old as a “force to be reckoned with.”
“She was a jolt of lightening. A whirlwind,” said Peter Burns, a friend from Colorado. “A Labrador puppy running clumsily with innocent joy.”
Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes has been arrested in connection with the massacre, that also left 58 people injured. He is due to be formally charged on Monday.
With files from The Associated Press