Was it meant to be?
"Hi! This is your Representative, Gabby Giffords, inviting you to join me at Congress on Your Corner tomorrow, Saturday, January 8th between 10 and noon, at the Safeway at Oracle and Ina. Come and tell me how government can work better for you."
Hmmm.... it's close, it's free, she's a Cornellian..... I'll go.
Husband is going to spin class, as usual for a Saturday morning. I'll call the Crayola Kids and see if one of them wants to join me. Mom and Dad and Big Brother are busy, but Christina-Taylor is free, and "she loves going places with you!"
We make a plan.
Who knew that 9:45 the next morning would be the last time I'd pick her up at home?
I dress for the diva in my 9 year old friend. I accessorize (to the best of my limited ability). I select my favorite cowboy boots and the newer earrings TBG chose for the holidays. The skinny belt that fit around my low-riding jeans, the belt for which I'd searched high and low, is cinched tight. I look fit and put-together.... and I know that CTG will still have comments.
I love that about her; it makes her who she is: a perfect little girl who is quite pleased with herself, with the world, with life in general. She wants everyone to be just as happy as she is.... and that seems to include accessories these days, at least for this 9 year old.
She had a little sore throat and a sniffle last night, so back inside for her sparkly Juicy Couture sweatshirt she is sent. "Yes," her mom reassured me, "she really does want to go with you."
Those are the words I cherish when I replay this scene.
We drive, slowly and carefully because I have someone else's daughter in the car. We park in the middle of the parking lot so that I can pretend the walk to the sign-in table counts as exercise. She leaves that sweatshirt on the front seat of my car. She can walk back to retrieve it if it's cold.
We weren't there long enough for that.
She signs us in and we wait in line. We engage the other standees in a Why are YOU here contest. She shares her Student Council victory and accepts the kudos. Gabby arrives, exits the car wearing the gloves Pam Simon told her to bring to ward off the morning chill. CTG points out the Congresswoman's accessories, and we make another plan - to shop at the Going Out of Business sale across the street after we shake hands with a real, live legislator.
The photographer begins snapping pictures, we ramp up our excitement as we inch closer to our Congressperson.... and all hell breaks loose.
I feel the bullet rending the air. I watch Gabby slide down the flags.
And then, there is silence, an eerie, creepy, absence of sound enveloping the shopping center.
I hear myself announcing that I've been shot.
I find myself lying on the sidewalk, holding my little friend's hand, replaying scenes from Law and Order in my head because I don't know what else to say. "Stay with me. Don't leave me here alone. I promised your mom you'd be home after lunch. Do not let me be the only one here on the cold ground."
I wish I'd remembered to tell her that I loved her, too. She was gone before I could re-jigger my brain. My therapist tells me that I'd be wishing I'd given her instructions to keep breathing had I spent those last few moments telling her that she was loved.
There are sirens, curiously comforting sirens, and EMT's and medevac copters and nurses and doctors and reporters and politicians and tv cameras .... and Christina-Taylor's spirit hovering nearby.
That's the part which is clearest, even now.
It was what it was. I can't change the past.
It is what it is, an existential horror.
I'm still learning to get along in such a world.