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Colorado shooting: Vigil held on Denver campus for 3 victims

July 26, 2012|By Ashley Powers
  • PK McKenzie, left, comforts Stella Ojeda while holding a picture of her former classmate, movie theater shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, during a vigil in Denver.
PK McKenzie, left, comforts Stella Ojeda while holding a picture of her… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

DENVER -- After the words of comfort ended and the doves fluttered away, the mourners gathered at a college campus here were asked to write messages for the victims of Friday's movie theater shooting.

 "To those whose candles were extinguished too soon," someone scribbled on the concrete in blue chalk, "may you find happiness and comfort."

 "Some flames can never be put out," another mourner wrote in green.

 The tributes were part of an afternoon vigil for three victims affiliated with the campus, which is home to three colleges. 

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 Jessica Ghawi, 24, was a student at one of the campus schools, Metropolitan State College of Denver. Alex Sullivan, 27, attended another, the Community College of Denver. And the youngest shooting victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, went to a daycare on campus.

The suspected gunman, James E. Holmes, 24, had also been a student, although he attended classes on a different campus. Before the rampage that killed 12 and injured 58, Holmes withdrew from a graduate program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz medical campus.

Thursday's vigil was small, with maybe 60 people outside the student union in 91-degree heat. But a number of them knew one of the victims, whose smiling photos were propped up near the stage.

Larry Collette, who teaches broadcasting at Metropolitan State, had Ghawi  in his electronic media class this spring. He described her as a good student with a magnetic personality.

 She chatted often with Brian McGinn and PK McKenzie in the twice-weekly afternoon class, which included roughly two dozen students. Ghawi and McKenzie bonded over their shared Texas roots and the little ways that Colorado was different -- such as how much more water they needed to drink in its drier climate.

 Ghawi missed Fiesta, a yearly festival in San Antonio, and the Spurs basketball team, McKenzie said. But she relished Denver's ceaseless sunshine.

 "She was a sunshine person," McKenzie said.

 Ghawi and McGinn, 28, chatted about hockey -- both he and Ghawi's boyfriend played.

 "I remember her accent, to be honest," McGinn said with a smile. "She'd say she didn't have an accent at all, and we'd say, 'OK, not as much as the guy from Tennessee.'"

An aspiring sports journalist, Ghawi jumped in whenever the guys in the class talked sports.

 "She knew every stat in the world," McKenzie said, her smile matching McGinn's.

 When it came time to write a message to her former classmate, McKenzie chose to scribble on poster board with black marker:

 "Jessie -- You'll be rockin' Heaven! Miss you, PK."

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

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