Amanda Lee Myers
SPRINGFIELD: A man who saved his girlfriend’s life at the Colorado movie shooting was remembered for his selfless sacrifice Saturday, while an aspiring sportscaster was praised for her boundless energy and an Air Force reservist, as a good friend.
The girlfriend whom Matt McQuinn saved by taking three bullets aimed at her wept as pastors spoke of the senselessness of the shooting spree at the suburban Denver theater where 12 people were killed more than a week ago.
Mourners packed a church in McQuinn’s western Ohio hometown, while family and friends gathered in San Antonio on the same day to remember Jessica Ghawi and a private funeral was held at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., for Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress.
More funerals are set for next week.
When gunfire broke out in the Aurora theater, McQuinn, 27, dived in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and was shot three times.
Yowler, who was shot in the knee but survived, arrived at McQuinn’s funeral on crutches Saturday and wept quietly with his parents and other family during the funeral. Neither she nor his parents addressed mourners at the Maiden Lane Church of God.
Pastor Herb Shaffer, who is also McQuinn’s uncle, said his nephew had been a gift to his family since he was born, and that his actions in Colorado were just one example of his selflessness.
McQuinn called his mother three times the day before she had surgery because he was upset that he couldn’t be there in person, Shaffer said. When he was just 7, he put his arm around his younger cousin because he was worried she wasn’t having a good day, he said.
Then he talked about McQuinn’s greatest sacrifice of all, saving Yowler, whom Shaffer described as the love of his nephew’s life.
“In moments of crisis, true character comes out,” he said. “His immediate response was to protect the woman he loved.”
“Matt’s death is a sudden loss, one that has produced many questions in your minds,” Pastor Dan 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 theater? Why was he able to purchase guns and ammunition so easily? Why didn’t God do something?”
Mourners at Ghawi’s funeral also touched on the massacre.
“If this coward could have done this with this much hate, imagine what we can do with this much love,” her brother said at the Community Bible Church in San Antonio.
But most of the service focused on the life and energy of the aspiring 24-year-old sports journalist.
“What we will not do today is focus on how she left us,” said Peter Burns, a friend from Colorado, reading a statement from Ghawi’s mother, Sandy. “Jess was a force to be reckoned with. She was a jolt of lightning. A whirlwind. A Labrador puppy running clumsily with innocent joy.”
Burns talked of the funny way Ghawi sneezed, her near-addiction to Nutella chocolate, how she was sloppy and always lovable.
Ghawi’s boyfriend, Jay Meloff, noted that others described her as “a tough, redheaded spitfire,” and she was, but he also saw “a beautiful, warm-hearted and passionate woman with a capacity for love. ... She was as mushy as they come.”
Ghawi moved to Colorado about a year ago.
She had survived a June 2 shooting at a Toronto mall that left two dead and several wounded. She blogged about the experience, writing that it reminded her “how fragile life was.”