Two years ago today, as you are reading this, I was spending the day with Greg Iles. I went to yoga, just as I did every Friday morning, and then I came home, took a shower, and got into comfy clothes. I poured myself the first of many glasses of sparkling water, and curled up on the couch, on a bed, on some lounge furniture outside in the sunshine, and I read. I started on page one, lunched on yogurt in the 200's, and took myself out for pancakes at 10pm with 80 pages left to read. I met some lovely people at IHOP and went to sleep content.
The next morning, I was shot and Christina-Taylor was dead.
In no more time than it took to type that sentence, a sunny civics lesson turned into a nightmare. I was in the thick of a where were you when you heard about it? event, and I didn't even know it. I was anesthetized and surgerized and transfused, but I was not aware of anything beyond my narcotized self. My family tells me that I asked for Christina every time I opened my eyes, and that they told me the truth every time. I remember opening my eyes and thinking that I should ask about Christina because they would be expecting me to ask about Christina but I didn't really need to ask because I knew for certain what had happened to her.
I was there. Of that, I was aware.
I was thrilled to watch Christina watching Gabby and then I was lying on the cold cement, holding a dying child's hand. There was no interregnum, no pregnant pause, no uneven splice to the scene. One moment it was joy. One moment it was not.
Of all the pieces of this puzzle, the suddenness and the finality are the hardest to grasp. That they came one upon the other doesn't help. That they involved gunfire just adds to the impossibility of it all; I'd never been in the presence of a handgun or a bullet before that day. I was certain that the rent air and the Batman-like-POW!-SPROING!-ZZZZZ whizzing past me came from a gun, though I don't remember seeing either the shooter or the weapon.
I went from imagining handshakes and introductions to watching my Congresswoman slide down against the flags of her country and her state. I went from grasping small fingers in delight to tugging on that hand, begging it and the rest of her to stay with me for just a little while longer... telling her that I loved her.... that I was going to bring her home to her Mom.... hollering, “Damn it, don't you leave me here alone on this cold sidewalk, young lady.”
In an instant, everything changed. Nothing will ever be the same.
There are some pieces which bring me joy. Those of us who were there that Saturday morning are a lovely bunch, if we do say so ourselves. We are engaged and warm and wish we'd never had to meet but are totally thrilled to be in one anothers' lives. We're an extended family, with kids and great-aunts and grandparents galore. We've shared a singularity. There is so much we don't need to explain to one another. There's the right amount of sympathy and strength in our every encounter. It's a community unlike any other.... except, perhaps, in Aurora, or Newtown, or Columbine, or Virginia Tech.
There are some pieces which move me to action, now that I've found a place for most of my fears and dreads. Limiting access to weaponry to those who can pass a smell test of some sort or other, bringing data retrieval systems into the 21st century so lists can be monitored with ease and accuracy, creating community facilities where the de-institutionalized mentally ill and their families can find medication and counseling and a sense of community without stigma are things to which I'll be devoting some time and attention.
There are some pieces which still surprise me: that the story still has legs, twenty-four months down the road; that strangers still hug me in the produce aisle; that businesses are delighted to donate to my worthy cause; that I am a celebrity. I've gotten used to the intrusiveness, balancing my discomfort against the benefits I can reap.
I stand on a platform held up by the souls of those lost and damaged on January 8th . That's an awesome responsibility, and is the easy answer when someone wants to know how I manage to go on. I am here and capable while so many are not; it would be disgraceful to do nothing with the life I have before me.
The harder answer, the one to the question I asked two years ago,
I know that it is possible to watch the light go out of another person's eyes. I do not know if it is possible to live with that knowledge.remains elusive. My plan remains the same:
I do know that I will try.
from What I Know, written January 16, 2011
For those of you in Tucson and its environs, I invite you to join TBG me as Cornell Cares at the 2nd Annual STROLL AND ROLL tomorrow, Saturday January 5th. The event takes place at the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Linear Park on Shannon, west of Ina from 8am – 11am.
Part of the community-wide BEYOND! commemoration events, the Stroll and Roll is a chance to get outside and get moving and connect with your friends and neighbors. Each One Take One is our motto; grab a neighbor, a colleague, a friend and bring your sneakers, skates, bikes and trikes and wheelchairs and walkers to this flat, 1.6 mile (3.2 miles out and back) paved trail.
Go as far as you want for as long as you want. There will be crafts and sidewalk chalk and a Donate-and-Pull giveaway box.... and hopscotch and hugging circles along the path, just for fun! Come by and say “HI !”