Aurora Theater Shooting Victim's Parents on Loss and Love

Season 5 Episode 317
Aired on 10/17/2015 | CC tv-14
In June 2012, Jessica Ghawi, a young woman visiting Toronto, bought a hamburger at a mall food court. But, instead of sitting down to eat, she followed a gut feeling and took her order to-go. Exactly three minutes later, a gunman opened fire right where Jessica had been standing. Two people were killed, and five others were wounded. "Our daughter came so close to losing her life that day," says Lonnie Phillips, Jessica's father.

Jessica's mother, Sandy Phillips, says her daughter watched in horror as victims were carried out by paramedics and asked herself why someone would do such a thing. "She was very upset, and I said, 'You know what Jessi, you have seen the worst of humanity today, and you're never going to see anything like that again,'" Sandy recalls.

After the Toronto shooting, Sandy says Jessica was still a fun-loving person, but something had changed about her. "There was another level—a depth to her—that didn't seem to exist to me before," she says. "She was always a very giving person, but after that, you saw it just really deepen. And she was much more reflective."

One month after narrowly escaping with her life, Jessica went with her friend, Brent, to the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. About 30 minutes after the film began, a gunman started shooting innocent moviegoers, wounding 70 people and killing 12, including 24-year-old Jessica.

"It changes everything. Everything. There is nothing that is the same about us. What we think, what we do, what we believe," Sandy says. "You question everything, but you do have these discoveries that you go, 'Wow there is more than I understand.' Now, we let the world dictate to us where it's going to take us."

Watch as Jessica's parents share more about the lessons learned since their daughter's murder.