|Repost: Heartfelt Words from Friends in Tucson
||[Jan. 21st, 2011|01:41 am]
Repost: Heartfelt Words from Friends in Tucson
Much has already been said, many times over, about the recent horrific events in Tucson, Arizona. The shooting and the aftermath touched us all in various ways, some of those ways strange and unexpected. (For instance, Congresswoman Giffords and one of the other surviving victims are both fellow Cornell alums.)
Of course, nobody feels the pain of such events as acutely as friends and relatives of the victims, or to a lesser but still very real degree, residents of a community brought to its knees by such an unspeakable, unthinkable, chilling act of wanton violence hitting far too close to home. At times like these especially, we are indeed all part of a greater community, and the burden shouldered by our fellow human beings in Tucson is all of ours to carry.
Two Bay Area friends of mine -- a former co-worker and his partner -- have been living in Tucson for several years now. Granted, I had forgotten their exact location in Arizona (a completely unfamiliar state in my mind), and it wasn't until I received the below message that I remembered they were right at the epicenter of this disaster.
I believe these sentiments bear repeating, and so with Jean Bellour's permission, I am reposting his words (followed by my response) for any and all to see:
Dear friends and family:
It is hard to express how devastated and shocked our community remains after the massacre that took 6 lives and left Congresswoman Giffords in critical care.
A total of 19 people were shot in this senseless violence. Each of us in the Tucson Community have connections to many others, so we all have felt immediate effects.
Our house is is just 5 minutes from the Safeway at Ina and Oracle, and I pass by it twice a day to go to and from work. I use the Wells Fargo branch on the corner. We buy holiday hams in a store in the complex. My barber has a shop there. We treat ourselves to dim sum at a restaurant next to Safeway. Our sense of place has been distorted as we see our local landmarks on national TV with helicopters, police tape, injured people and commentators the background to this national tragedy.
But more than our sense of place, we all have been affected emotionally. My neighbor and great friend was planning on going to the event, but decided to do some chores. A co-worker at the Wells Fargo branch emailed several of us speaking of the terror of the customers in the branch and the heroic efforts of the staff to make sure they were safe. The story of the 9 year old born on 9/11 then killed yesterday has us all in agony.
This cannot happen here. This is a diverse community, evenly split politically between Repubs, Dems and independents. Latinos represent about 35% overall of the vote here and are proud to point out that this town was founded in 1776 by a Spanish priest. Much of our land is held by the Tohono O'odham and Apache Nations, and there is nowhere near the friction between Native Americans and others that I have witnessed elsewhere. The Western trait of being open to one another yet being respectful of one's privacy is what this place is about. Live and Let Live is writ large here. What attracts many to Southern Arizona is the casual mix of Mexican, Indian and Anglo cultures which add vibrancy to the others.
Gabrielle represents a huge slice of Southern Arizona, including our suburban area, the urban areas of Tucson, high technology entities such as Raytheon and the University of Arizona, a major Air Force base, grassland ranches along the border with Mexico, and vast desert country with smuggling and immigration issues. And she is respected by many. There are shrill people on either side of the political spectrum which take exception to her moderate path, but she does work hard and tries to represent all.
This cannot happen here. But it has. They said the same thing in Oklahoma City. The victims were simply people going about their day.
The lessons to be learned from this are yet to be defined. Civility certainly needs to be returned to our public discourse. Respecting the right to disagree without fear needs to be reinforced. I personally have issues with firearms here. But are we simply trying to make some sense, to put some framework around this tragic event that is so chaotic at its core?
Let's not hesitate to talk about what happened here. But with respect and understanding that this can and does happen anywhere.
We grieve for our losses.
Jean and Ron,
Thanks for speaking out in response to this tragedy. We need rational voices to stand out amidst the chaotic maelstrom of anger that has commandeered so much of the realm of reasonably civil discourse. And I had no idea you guys were so closely peripheral to these events.
I am reminded of a few short years ago when a deranged man went on a shooting spree in a government building in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, a place you never hear about in national news of any kind; and suddenly, for a few days, the horrific incident was covered by news organizations around the world. (A friend in Brazil messaged me frantically to ask "What is going on in your hometown???" and linked me to an article on a Brazilian news site. Seeing events in my hometown described in Portuguese was a peculiar experience.)
The motive was different -- that's assuming there was a motive, in any rational, coherent sense of the word, in either case -- but I certainly understand the chilling, haunting feeling of something so unthinkable hitting so close to home. In this case, right down the street from my mom's workplace.
Realizing that this latest incident may very well be but a symptom of a greater epidemic of violence institutionalized by certain pundits and politicians as a means of communicating dissent, I join you in hoping that awareness of the utterly inhuman senselessness of this may somehow help turn the tide, and thus not be in vain.
I wish you and your community strength and resolve in picking up the pieces and moving forward -- hurt and scarred, no doubt, but perhaps ultimately stronger and more united for it.