The following are statements that were passed around on the day of the shootings by soccer spectators with cell phones and Internet devices in hand:
“There was a shooting at a Safeway at Ina and Oracle.”
“One gunman, sixteen down.”
“Gabrielle Giffords was shot.”
“Oh my God, she was shot through the head.”
“Sixteen or Nineteen people have been shot. Six are dead.”
“The gunman was a white guy, late teens—early 20s.”
“A friend in law enforcement just told me that Gabby is dead. He said to keep it under wraps. It’s not official.”
After our collective gasp, a couple players on the bench turned around (these were U-13 boys, for whom my daughter, Willow, was a ref).
“What happened?” they asked. “Who is she?”
“She’s our congresswoman. You know, in the U.S. House of Representatives?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve heard of her,” said one, as he cleared his forehead of sandy brown bangs and exposed a face full of freckles.
It was an intense game, tied at 1-1. The coach—aware of what was happening—did his best to keep his head, as well as the heads of his players, in the game. Meanwhile, a man to my right, who was wearing glasses and a khaki hat, stood up, walked over and showed me his Blackberry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the writing on his miniature screen (no glasses), so I asked him to tell me what it said.
“Fox News and CNN just confirmed she’s dead.” (He didn’t want to say it out loud).
For the rest of the game, this is what we believed to be true. We believed our Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, a woman for whom we voted and supported, and who attended our daughters’ junior high school—who had so many personal ties to friends in our community—was assassinated.
I was one of many who couldn’t contain tears. It was awful, awful news.
Of course, the details continued to change throughout the morning and the rest of the day. By the time the game was over and we were in our car and on our way to lunch, we had learned from the radio that Gabby was actually alive. Then we learned of the death of Judge Roll from a friend we ran into at the restaurant where we had lunch, who worked with the well-liked federal judge and considered him a friend.
I don’t remember where I was when I learned of nine year-old Christina Green, because when I heard that news, my mind definitely shut down. It was simply too painful to fathom, because at that moment, she became my daughter. She became Tucson’s daughter.
We, as a family AND as a community, were dazed and frightened as the hours/days passed and the facts unfolded. We wondered how we would explain this craziness to our children, who looked at us with beseeching eyes.
Putting myself in their position, I recalled a childhood day in 1968 when I heard the news of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. I was very young, however, I was old enough to know that shootings happened—and they happened OFTEN—because of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I was led to believe that THIS was what happened in the world. But in spite of other events as my life continued, the attempt on President Regan’s life, for example, and the still unfathomable terrorism of 9/11/2001, I had learned to use coping mechanisms (LIFE GOES ON) to keep getting up and going about our daily business.
And I learned, the older I became, that the easiest coping mechanism was to become complacent and even numb. But last Saturday, this mechanism was NOT acceptable.
This is why I collected my children from school early last Wednesday and stood in line for hours to see and listen to President Obama when he came to Tucson. I had the hopeful desire that somehow he could either explain this to us, or somehow make us feel better.
For those of you who watched his speech, President Obama, of course, couldn’t explain this senseless act of a clearly deranged young man. But I want to tell you all—particularly those of you who wonder WHY Tucson has made such a big deal of his presence here—HE MADE US FEEL BETTER. Our President was like the Dad we needed. He put his arms around us and told us “I’m sorry.” He let us know we were going to be okay and empowered us to go on, reminding us to be civil to one another.
And if you have a problem with that—if you want to unfriend me on Facebook or question my politics or even shake your head at me while attaching anything remotely political to my feelings about what happened in Tucson go ahead. But first, please read just a little bit more:
On Wednesday night, when President Obama told us, with her husband’s permission, that Gabby Giffords opened her eyes for the first time shortly after he and his wife, Michelle, left the hospital room . . . well, I for one, believed with all my heart that we were in the presence of a miracle.
Only days earlier, we’d heard she suffered a “through-and-through” gunshot to the head AND that she was dead. And on Wednesday night, we learned not only that she was alive, but also that she was on the road to recovery. We realize her doctors remain cautiously optimistic, however, they gave her a 101% chance of surviving. And here it is Friday night, and she’s still alive.
If this isn’t a miracle, I don’t know the meaning of the word.
So please be humble in the face of this miracle. Please set aside your political differences—even your BORING discussions and your blame fingers, your left vs. right rhetoric, your crosshairs and your righteousness. This isn’t about President Obama or Sarah Palin. This is about our neighbor, Gabrielle Giffords—a Bobcat alumna and former student of our daughters’ current teachers. And while we are truly sorry for all of the innocent lives lost, because life goes on, we rejoice in the life that was saved.
God bless you Gabby and we pray that you may fully recover, and help keep our hope—as a city AND a nation—alive.