Tucson TragedySaturday 1/8 I was up at crack of dawn to go warmup for my Adult PreBronze Free Skate test. After the test (I passed!) I went to breakfast with my coach and some friends. When I finally was driving home after dropping my coach off, I was listening to the news and heard about the horrible shooting in Tucson. 19 shot of whom 6 were killed (including a 9-year old girl!) and one of the wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
I can't express how hard this hit me. My Tucson! My home, wherever I may go. The place my heart has been for so long... a scene of tragedy. Later on I would discover the links I had with the injured and killed... Judge Roll, who had attended Ss. Peter and Paul school with my pastor John Lyons, was a daily communicant and had often been a lector at SSPP. One of the men who died, shielding his wife (who was also shot) was the uncle of one of my classmates from Amphi. Another classmate knew the shooter and his parents; their kids had been in Little League together. And of course I had met Gabby Giffords when I was in grad school, when we took our winning Student Showcase entries to the Capitol and she came out to talk to us briefly.
On Wednesday they had a memorial service at McKale, and President Obama came. He gave a wonderful speech that, I think, really helped a lot of people to grieve and to feel better. Thank you, Mr. President.
Saturday I was down in Tucson to sing at a wedding with our SSPP Schola. Part of my goal was to visit two of the memorials that had grown up, one at UMC and one also at Gabby Gifford's office (there was another at the shooting site but I didn't want to go there).
I visited the one at UMC Saturday afternoon, since it's right across the street from my old parish (Ss. Peter and Paul). It was probably about 2:30 p.m. and there were probably150 or so people there. Of course the news trucks were still all camped out too, which made it a little noisy unfortunately. The memorial was on the small lawn in front of UMC. People had left stuff all around the perimeter, and then there were some pathways through the middle lined with more stuff. There were cards, flowers, candles, a lot of little posters with pictures of those killed, or of Gabby Giffords. Many of the local schools had drawn up posters signed by their kids. There were poems and expressions of love, of hope, of comfort. There were many expressions of thanks to the UMC doctors, nurses and staff as well as the first respondeers, and some thanking President and Mrs. Obama for coming to Tucson. Walking through, there were a number of kids present with their parents, but not too many teenagers or young adults, mostly middle aged folks it seemed like. The atmosphere was quiet and reverent although there was some talking too. A few people were taking pictures, and I considered it but it didn't seem appropriate to me so I refrained. Reading the signs and cards and looking at the displays it was almost overwhelming, the communal grief and hurt registered there. At the same time there was definitely a sense of pulling together, that this act doesn't change what a great and good place Tucson is. It was sad but uplifting too.
Later that day, around 6ish (sun had just set) I stopped by the memorial at Gabby Gifford's office. There were probably 15-20 people there. It's much smaller, a much smaller space. This memorial had a larger proportion of flowers, and especially candles. Many, many candles. It struck me as "only in America" that people express their love for their Jewish Congresswoman by lighting candles with pictures of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had brought some flowers and I found a suitable spot for them.
One poster that particularly struck me was from a man who described how he'd lived the first 50 years of his life in Tucson but was now living in Phoenix; and how he had felt like Tucson was his refuge, how he would go visit when he needed to, and be recharged. How he felt like the shooting had taken his Tucson away from him, how it was no longer safe. He said that as he had watched the community mourning and grieving and drawing together, he felt better and realized that despite the shooting it was still "his place."
I know exactly what he means.