The tragic shooting in a Denver theater showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" early this morning (July 20) has been dominating Twitter — with #theatershooting holding the number-one spot.
But one Twitter handle has also been prominent — that of Jessica Redfield (@JessicaRedfield), one of the deceased. Redfield, whose legal last name was Ghawi, was a Denver sports reporter and Texas transplant with a special passion for hockey. And she had a lot of friends on the social network, with 2,715 followers.
Amazingly, Redfield had very narrowly escaped another mass shooting, at Toronto's Eaton Centre mall on June 2, 2012. Three days later (June 5) she recalled on her blog the banal decision to get a burger instead of sushi that saved her life.
"I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found."
In a tragedy of these proportions — 12 dead and 38 injured according to the latest CNN reporting — sheer numbers can make it hard to appreciate the individual tragedies.
But Twitter is a medium that can express both massive events, such as the Arab Spring and the anti-SOPA protests, as well as personal stories. In the case of Redfield, emotions have been pouring out in 140-character snippets.
Within the space of an hour this morning (from roughly 5:30 to 6:30 AM, Denver Time), her friend Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsRadio), a fellow sports reporter, moved quickly from shock to fury (at suspected gunman 24-year-old James Holmes) to a touching effort to honor his friend.
"Devastated. Lost a very close friend in the shooting last night. @JessicaRedfield came to Denver to pursue sports career. I'm shaking"
"This f------ coward doesn't deserve his name uttered or picture shown. Give zero publicity to this monster." [Text redacted by TechNewsDaily]
"I'm doing today's show. @JessicaRedfield and others deserve the time to celebrate how amazing they were."
A true testament to the power of social media is the ability to get a personal sense of people we have never met, and likely never will. And of course in the case of Jessica Redfield, we never can. It doesn't always require deep statements or lengthy exposition either.
Here brief bio on Twitter encapsulates how she saw herself in the world:
"You can find me in the TV studio, NHL arena/ locker room, on a plane, or writing. Southern. Sarcastic. Sass.Class.Crass. Grammar snob"
And sometimes, the day-to-day snippets give a sense of what people are like and what their passions are — as did Redfield's Instagram photos and her last tweets:
"Never thought I'd have to coerce a guy into seeing the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises with me." (July 19 approx. 6:30 PM, Denver time)
"Of course we're seeing Dark Knight. Redheaded Texan spitfire, people should never argue with me. Maybe I should get in on those NHL talks..." (July 19, approx. 11:30 PM)
And the final, excited but ironically routine tweet of her life:
"MOVIE DOESN'T START FOR 20 MINUTES" (July 20, approx. 12:30 AM)
Follow Seán Captain on Twitter @seancaptain