I live approximately 4.5 miles away from the store at Ina and Oracle in Tucson, where the terrible shooting that involved Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, six people who were killed, and 12 more who were wounded. At about the time of the shooting, I was getting ready to take my son to the mall, which is just a little closer to the site of the shooting.
I heard about it from couple sitting next to me in the play area, where our children were playing. I hadn’t noticed the group of people watching television just behind me – Tucson is kinda crowded, and there’s not much to do besides shop, so crowding in the mall is normal.
Conflicting reports – Giffords was originally reported dead, and then that was retracted. The mood was interesting – I’d bet about 3/4 of the parents in the play area didn’t even know what was going on; it was just 30-45 minutes after it had happened.
Mood: Numb. Too near to the tragedy to feel anything but numb.
Sunday morning, we prayed a long, long time for the survivors and the city of Tucson. The overall mood in town – for the people who cared – was heavy. This was a tragedy, and no matter which side of the fence political ideologies fell, it sucked to feel, even for an instant, that having political aspirations comes with a deadly risk – that taking the responsibility to represent a city or town comes at at a price.
At one point in the service, our fairly large church broke up into groups of 3-4 and just prayed.
Mood: Sadness, sympathy, and humility.
At University Medical Center, the hospital where the shooting victims were taken for treatment. The scene was complete chaos. For days (and maybe even still now), the only thing you could really see were the media. Hospital staff and patients were re-routed, and had to wait in lines just to get in. And everyone had to have a badge. Meanwhile, media staff walked by with coffee and newspapers, getting their stories and doing their thing. I had to drop my mom off at the hospital a couple of times during the last few days.
Last night, while President Obama was giving the Memorial speech at the University of Arizona, I was at choir practice, where I am every Wednesday night. After listening to the sick circus being spun by the media, fingers pointing this way and that way and none at all pointing at the psychotic killer, I was just about done with this. My attention had already moved on. I was also wanting Tucson to get back to the relatively vacation-like atmosphere it usually holds. After all, it’s snow-bird season. The cars move a little slower, people bundle up because it’s cold(er), and we’re all still kinda buzzing from the holidays.
I wasn’t able to watch the service, and so I went online this morning to find the transcript and found it here. I read it all.
I believe that hope is contagious, and that if we spread enough of it, it can bring sense to situations that have gone awry. I was also relieved that Obama urged us to stop turning on each other in the face of tragedy. And I was inspired to rise above my own moodiness and irritation and to just reflect. Lives were lost. Beautiful, innocent lives that deserve to rest in peace and not chaos.
I’ll sum this up with some of my favorite parts of the speech. Know that I am not in any way attempting some sort of political thing here – without getting into it, if you knew me, you would certainly know that much is true. Just reflect and hope along with me that somewhere, we as a society can become greater, more enlightened individuals, so that collectively we will be more worthy of being remembered.
So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.
If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.
We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.
Thumbnail Image Credit: Wikimedia