Today marks the one year anniversary of the horrific shooting at a Tucson, Arizona Safeway supermarket. The shooting occurred during an appearance by Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. These appearances were part of Giffords’ program to meet her constituents and talk about issues affecting their everyday lives; the purest sense of government by the people for the people. Representation in its simplest form and manner; what Schoolhouse Rock and elementary school civics classes taught us. None of that is remembered, that day is remembered as the day a mentally ill young man slipped through the cracks of our healthcare and criminal systems and committed a massacre. Six people were killed in the attack:
· Nine year old Christina-Taylor Green, the granddaughter of former MLB player and manager Dallas Green, of Tucson. Green was accompanied to the meeting by neighbor Susan Hileman. Young Christina was born on September 11, 2001 and had appeared in the book Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.
- Dorothy "Dot" Morris, 76, a retired secretary from Oro Valley wife of George, who was wounded.
- U.S. District Court of Arizona Chief Judge John Roll, 63, named to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991
- Phyllis Schneck, 79, homemaker from Tucson
- Dorwan Stoddard, 76, retired construction worker, died from a gunshot wound to the head; his wife Mavy was wounded
- Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman, 30, community outreach director for Giffords, and a member of Giffords' staff since 2006. Mr. Zimmerman was the first Congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.
In addition to the six dead, thirteen other people were wounded by gunshot in the attack, while a fourteenth person was injured, but not by gunshot. Gabby Giffords and two other members of her staff were among the surviving gunshot victims.
We remember the President’s visit to Tucson weeks later. We lived for the great speech, the dignitaries, the presence of Gabby’s husband astronaut Mark Kelly, and the word that she had regained consciousness. We have watched closely over the last 12 months as Gabby recovered with her husband at her side. We witnessed her Hollywoodesque appearance in Congress to vote on the debt limit and her recent appearance with Diane Sawyer was captivating.
As the sad anniversary is upon us, the also look back through young Christina’s eyes. The ideal of a country singularly focused on continuing the greatness of America where political differences are set aside and nation is placed first. The eyes of a child filled with hope, imaging the possibility, perceiving a country as great as a nine year old would envision.
Normally, my cynicism and sarcasm would kick in now. But I will hold it in check. I do believe in the greatness of America: religious and social tolerance, nation above all, defender of the weak, justice for the weak and strong, the beacon of light on the mountain against the powers of evil, and compassion. The last time we called for unity, it didn’t last as long as NBC’s Playboy Club. We can do it if we chose to, if we desire it, if we believe in it.
We owe it to the six.