Tucson sends you its love.
The media reports specific numbers of killed and wounded, but we
here in Tucson know that's only a part of the story. This happened to
all of you, each and every one of you. We get it. Really, we do.
Everybody has a story, or is one degree of separation from a
story, that puts a loved one on the way to or passing by
when or right across the parking lot. That is true here
in our small-town-metropolis of just over 1 million; it must be even
more true in yours, one third our size.
Does it seem as if all the faces in town have the same glazed and
dazed expression? Do you feel as if you are walking through a movie
or a bad dream or any of the other banal explanations thrown your
way? There's more than a little difficulty involved in realizing that
this really did happen right there in your town.... where you shop
and stroll and send your kids to the mall. It's just a regular town
in a beautiful part of the country. We get it. Really, we do.
Colorado and Arizona may look like the Wild West to those back
East, but we know that cowboy boots and silver belt buckles are only
the outward trappings; in fact, we're just the same as everybody
else. Going to the movies or going to the grocery store shouldn't be
a cause for concern, no matter where you live.
Yes, you are a few miles from Littleton and it didn't take long
for that connection to run as an undercurrent to the sorrow and the
loss. Border skirmishes and guns-blazing-ATF-raids were our
background noise. We know, as you do, that it has nothing to do with
what happened that day. It's something with which to fill air time.
People need to know why and cultural differences and prior
bad acts fill the gap neatly.
Welcome to the eye of the media hurricane. For a while, everything
will whirl around you. You'll see friends and neighbors and first
responders on the screen just when you thought you could prepare
dinner or sit down for an hour's televised diversion without being
reminded that horror had struck just across the way. There is no
escape; it's everywhere.
Not that you should or would forget those injured and lost, not
that you ever could. Their stories are part and parcel of your
memories of that night. The toothless 6 year old, the pregnant dad,
the friends and the heroes, they are with you now and forever. We get
it. Really, we do.
For those of you who were there, you are now the other, the
ones to whom it happened. I did nothing more than take a girlfriend's
daughter to meet her Congresswoman. I was Everywoman. It was an
event, but the kind of event that grown ups and kids attend every
day. Then, bullets flew. Suddenly I was iconic, I was everywhere, I
was the neighbor who took the little girl to meet Gabby. My
pseudonymous blog was suddenly inextricably connected with my real
life, and my real life bore no resemblance to what it looked like the
week before. It was a hard pill to swallow.
I saw the same confusion on the faces of Tucsonans I encountered.
We were stunned. We were shocked. We never thought that such a thing
could occur in our little corner of paradise. After all, it was just
a sunny Saturday morning.... for you, a balmy Thursday midnight.... a
regular day in a regular week that all of a sudden, without any
warning, became another day that will live in infamy.
We get it. Really, we do.
What got us through those awful first few weeks, what has
sustained us individually and as a community, has been the
overwhelming love and support of a nation. President Obama came to us
as a father and a husband, Brian Williams shared our pain on
Dateline, late night talk show hosts sent their love. We were
cosseted by kindness and comfort from total strangers. A ten year old
in New Jersey, a grandmother in Iowa, long lost high school
classmates - my heart was touched by those who knew me and those who
thought that they did. Strangers accost me on the street, in
restaurants, in the produce aisle and compliment me on my progress.
Privacy? Not any more. I'm part of an historical event, just as you
are. We have no choice.
I'm a public figure attached to an awful event and it's an odd
place to be. It's not a role I sought, nor is it a role I can ignore.
Without asking my permission, life threw a wrench into my carefully
laid plans. My foundation was shaken in a very public way. My
reactions have been scrutinized on an international scale. The
Associated Press and National Public Radio and the New York Times
have been in my living room. Who am I? Am I the same woman who picked
up Christina-Taylor that morning? Am I a national figure worthy of
public attention? Are my opinions more valuable because I was shot?
When the reporter sticks the microphone into your face, remember that
we've been there, done that, and we get it. We really do.
You are not alone. The hearts of a nation are sharing your pain.
The attention will wax and wane as the judicial process grinds its
way forward, and events will occur that bring back the emotions you
think you have carefully packed away. PTSD may rear its ugly head.
Time will dull the pain, and you'll have moments where you don't hear
the shooting or the screaming. I promise.
You can choose to allow the events of that night to change your
life or you can choose to ignore it as best you can. Opinions will
fly, full of certainty and conviction. Others will presume that they
know just how you are feeling. Strangers will approach you in parking
lots and reporters will call and ask for your reaction the next time
something awful occurs..... and there will be another time... and
Political and philosophical conversations aside, the personal
piece is yours and yours alone. If I've learned anything at all from
my experience, it's that every one involved has his or her own
reality. No one is more accurate, more precise, more right
than another. This happened to you as individuals, but it happened to
your town and your country, too. Everyone feels the need to weigh in.
There is a new definition to your existence.
It's an interesting, pock-marked road to travel. Please, remember
that you are not on your own. We get it. We really do.
The Woman Who Took The Little Girl to See Gabby