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Avalanche correspondent Jessica Redfield victim of Aurora shootings

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I know this is a hockey blog, but sometimes a tragedy hits too close to home to ignore it. Even here.

Jessica Ghawi, known to her friends across the sports world as Jessica Redfield, was in the theater last night when a young man, identified by police as 24-year-old James Holmes, burst in through the emergency exit and started firing into the crowd that was waiting to see the new Dark Knight movie. He killed twelve in all. 20 other victims, including a 3-month-old baby (update: baby was unharmed and released this morning), are being treated at local hospitals. 50 were hurt all together.

Jessica became my friend over the last year. She was starting a career in sports journalism, and I regularly picked her brain. She was granted the ever-elusive Avalanche press credentials, and from our seats, AJ and I often watched her doing her thing in the press box. She was smart, friendly, and amazing. A red head through and through, she was a ball of energy and fire, with a quick wit and an infectious personality.

In a sad twist of fate, Jessica narrowly escaped a shooting in Toronto early last month. Her last blog entry talks of it.

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.

This morning I was going to share with you all a story I wrote abut a young hockey player who's trying out for the Cutthroats in August. It's a multi-piece story that would follow his path from training until after the free agent camp. I met this player through Jessica last April. His name is Jay Meloff, and he was her boyfriend. Jessica and I shot messages back and forth to each other, brainstorming the article. Jay and I finally got together for the interview, and I finished the article last night, shortly before the shootings began in Aurora.

Jay's story includes roadblock after roadblock as he pursued his goals of playing in the AHL and NHL. Every time things were going well for him, something came in to stop him. He always found a way through, though, relying on a strength of will and character. This is the biggest roadblock of them all, however, as a big reason he wanted to be on the Cutthroats was to be close to Jessi.

We lost a wonderful woman and budding sports journalist last night. Those of us here at Mile High Hockey, and especially me personally, send our love and prayers to Jessica's friends and family. She will be missed.