Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Tucson,

I love our town.  Don't you?

My husband and my friends and some of my favorite nurses and I walked through the vigil garden outside UMC last night.  You might have seen me and my bright yellow socks on CNN, who were filming respectfully from a distance.  There are candles and flowers and butterflies and daisy chains and streamers and sculptures.  There are hand made drawings from little girls and grown men.  There are potted plants and bouquets wrapped in papers from California and Oklahoma and Yuma. 

A violinist stands alone in the center of the field, playing to himself and sometimes leading others in song.  The mariachis asked permission to serenade us.....asked permission! if anyone could refuse a love song.  The young man's voice rose high and sweet as the sun set and the guitarist strummed and the trumpeter blew 12 long low lovely notes that went straight from his muted instrument to my soul.  It was a physical connection, and the maestro's wink at the end was an acknowledgment that we were attached on a visceral level.  The song was about antigua, which was explained to me as being the old kind of love.  Old or new, it was palpable.

I moved through the path of offerings, being overwhelmed.  I had thought that I would be anonymous, but I was not.  TBG's face has been all over the news and perhaps it was his presence that made us recognizable.  Or, perhaps, it was the two Tucson Police Department officers who were accompanying us.  Whatever the reason, I was noticed. Looked at.  Marveled at.  Watched.  Approached.

The first woman who asked if she could pray for me placed her hand on one of my wounds and directed Jesus to bring me strength.  I'm not much of a believer, but there was a warmth running through me as she exhorted him to get it together and make be better.  Rationally, I know there was nothing.  Really, it was there.

We turned the corner and Rhiannon and her little sister were watching their mom install their artwork.  Two little angels, delicate, sweet, confused and proud were standing right before me.  I asked if I could see the pictures.  I had to laugh at the balloon which was attached to the picture of my eyeball.  Do I look like I could have a string attached to me?  Rhiannon studied hard on the issue; the little one said it was next and not on and pointed out the space I had apparently missed.  I asked for a hug, but they'd been well trained about stranger-danger and they solemnly shook their heads no.  Mom was distraught and fell all over herself apologizing, but there was no need.  She was right and I was intruding.  This was their moment, not mine.

The  path twists and turns and follows nothing but an unplanned pattern of love.  It's not quite a labyrinth, not quite a maze, not quite random.  It's love.

Seeing Christina's name and photograph was almost more than I could bear.  She would have loved the attention, the publicity, the notice.  I just wanted her to be there with me so that we could enjoy it all together.

We moved on, and suddenly there was my name shouting itself back up in my face.  For the very first time I had a sense of the enormity of the situation, of the fact that I was not my own-personal-hiding-behind-my-blogonym self.  I'm a part of the saga, whether or not I chose to be.  I am out there   

But I am not alone.  You are out there with me, Tucsonans.  You with your teary eyes and your outstretched arms and your healing grace.  We are in this together.  A madman tried to turn our desert town into a slaughterhouse and we just won't let it happen.  No way.

This is our melting pot, our cultural stew, our place to be ourselves under the warmest sun and atop the driest earth.  We have the Catalinas and the Santa Ritas and the Pusch Ridge and we have each other.  As Dr. King and President Obama and many of the signs we read last night, we must choose hope over fear, civility over anger.  Sharing the evening with you, exchanging hugs and smiles and tentative outpourings of emotion I knew, once again, that TBG and I have chosen absolutely the right place to be just now.

I love you, Tucson, just as much as you love me.

Suzi Hileman


  1. Suzi, I was worried about how it would be when it hit you that your closely tended anonymity was breached. I was afraid that, by alerting the blog communities to which you contribute, I had inadvertently added to the problem, although I was careful to use your blogonym. I'll probably use it again because it's what I'm used to.

    With this beautifully composed post, which sounds exactly like the A/B I so admire, you've reassured us all--your blog family and your community--that your spirit is capacious. Welcome home, dear girl.

    P.S. I haven't yet turned on the news today. That will be a first in eight days of constant hungry remote twiddling, trying to find news of you. I'm headed straight to CNN. I'm going to wave and blow kisses at the television.

  2. Wow, you look so good to me! Wish I could be there to walk and talk with you.

  3. Suzi: Please call me. One quick question. Bobbie Jo

  4. I saw the video on this morning and was happy to see you, but sad to see you sad at moments. We are sending our teary-eyed love. The Cheeses xoxox

  5. So well stated, so well said. Keep the blogging going, because perhaps in the fact that you are not in this alone anymore, you might help some people take to heart the notion so many of us have, which you stated so well, "choose hope over fear, civility over anger." Hugs, Elizabeth Modic

  6. your life, as you know it will never be the same...but there is an opportunity there for us to learn and grow and then go foward and share. That is what you've been doing with your blog for years now. New reader here, but I've read enough of your posts to be affected.

  7. I'm so pleased you feel us(Tucson)out there holding you close. Willing you forward.

  8. Beautiful. As a native of Tucson, I am touched that you love our town so much. That you see the beauty despite our flaws. That you chose to be here. That you have settled in so comfortably and have eagerly made it home. You are most definitely not alone. Know that you have a neighborhood and a community and a nation pulling for your full recovery.

  9. Oh, a/b...

    What a lovely love letter. Among other things, it reassures those of us who knew you only by your online self that you are, in "real" life, just as smart and soulful as we'd always seen you. How lucky is Tucson (and the rest of the world) to have you, as well as the other people you celebrate here.

    Accepting openly and as Suzi the love of your community is a fine and assertive step on the way to healing (both yours and theirs). Good for you for taking it -- and we're looking forward to seeing (and helping you with) all the ones which follow.

    So nice to meet you, Suzi. (And thank you for saving me the trouble of introducing you to my friend a/b -- I just know the two of you would have hit it off. :))

  10. You never cease to amaze me or inspire me! I am sure I am not alone in admiring your beauty, your strength and your love for all those that walk in your path whether by your side, in front of you or behind you. You have a vision that comes from your soul not just your eyes. Love you girl!

  11. This is beautiful, in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this moment with us.

  12. Julie said,

    Wishing you well and sending good thoughts your way.

  13. Words cannot express...
    One day, one moment, one breath at a time.

  14. I keep trying to find something profound and uplifting to write here. All the words I come up with seem utterly inadequate. Summoning all the warm words of the healing heart and sending them to you.

  15. So glad you're up and about, able to receive all the love your community wants to shower on you. I hope you'll wrap yourself up in it as if it were a shawl and let it help you heal. We know you have many wounds that need to mend, so take your time. The love won't go away.

  16. Dear Suzi/aka a/b;

    Now the pieces fit!

    I remember a post you had written last year about taking a young friend shopping for precious stone and rock and what a wonderful afternoon you had spent together, and for some reason that story stuck in my head as I thought of the tragic event. It sounded exactly like something you would do, to spend time engaging a young soul in discovering a part of themselves, and sharing in that delight.

    I am so profoundly sorry it was your lovely young friend, and please accept my heartfelt sympathy. We are rooting for her family, and for you, to continue your healing journey!

  17. You are a most amazing friend, so filled with life, it wasn't your time, it just wasn't!! We need to hear so much more from you.
    Love you

  18. I love Tucson as much as I love this incredibly touching post. Positive, healing thoughts are coming your way from someone who used to call the NE foothills home.

  19. Suzi, your strength, grace and humor inspire and humble me. No one should have to experience what you have in the past, not quite, two weeks. I didn't really know you as Ashleigh, I began reading your blog via BlogHer's announcement about a BlogHer Blogger being among the wounded.

    I walked the few blocks from my home to UMC to vigil that first night. I tried to surround an image of you in light and love. I did that for everyone inside the hospital, not just those of you so horrifically injured that day. My superpowers don't include targeted energy beaming so I had to send out a cloud of prayers, energy, love.

    I didn't know your name at that time. When I reread your daughter's post I figured it out.

    Since then, you have been in my thoughts. I will follow your posts now, because you love Tucson, because you are a really good writer, because you are a strong woman whose beauty shines through your words.

    Thank you for sharing your words as you continue to heal. Tucson is fortunate to have you as an ambassador.

  20. Why I love my A/B...

    Because your first words were about love, life, and acceptance

    Because you are an amazingly strong woman that keeps finding the positive in a terrible situation

    Because every time I’m with you, regardless of why, you teach me about the person I want to be

    Because you are now "officially" my God-mother and I wear that label with pride!

  21. Dear Suzi,

    I read the above piece in the Op-Ed section of the AZ Daily Star and yearned to speak to you directly, not comment in their public forum. I din't realize you had a blog.

    Today my friend Anne told me you'd likely accompany us to meet Billy Collins, passing along your site address. How serendipitous! Here is my chance!

    I respect and admire your commitment to community participation and neighborly support, which took you and Christina to Gabby's event that day. I appreciate and echo your focus on love and hope and civility. I wish you a speedy recovery, on every level. I look forward to meeting you and joining our energies, if even for an afternoon, in adoration of poetry and connectedness and life.

    All best from a fellow Tucsonan,

    Kim Nelson

  22. Dear Suzi,

    I found your blog when trying to find out more about how you are doing. My heart aches so much for you. Christina and everyone that knows you are so very lucky to have you in their lives. Christina's spirit will live on with you. You taught her the beauty in life. I've already felt less sad by reading your touching words.

    I will keep reading from now on.

    Peace, hope and love,


  23. Oh Suzi, I hope you felt some of the concern and love from Phoenix, too! Did you get to meet my friend, Pam Simon, in the hospital? I recognize your blogname from Time Goes By, which I never miss and sometimes write stories for...welcome home!

  24. Dear Suzi.
    Since the day of the shootings my heart went out to you, as I could only imagine your pain of losing Christina. You were a great friend to her and she couldn't have asked for a better person to see last, right before she passed on. I admire your strength and intelligence. Please get well soon. You have a lot to teach the world. We're blessed to have you in Tucson.
    Love, Maria

  25. Suzi,
    I searched for you on the "net" because I wanted to tell you that there are loving hugs out here. You are so favorably thought of for caring about Christina's love of envolvement in interaction, enough to expand her world with an outing to witness an example such as Gabby. Mentoring a child, you care. For that I think of you and send love to you and also her family.
    Mary W in Oklahoma

  26. Dear Suzi,

    I am from Long Island and worked in Manhattan for ten years. On 9/11 I was pregnant with my own son and working downtown in NYC. So, the story of Christina touched my heart greatly. Then, I learned that you, too, were from Long Island, and I just wanted to send you my prayers and wish you peace. In taking Christina to this event, you acted in kindness. Don't let the actions of a madman destroy you as I almost allowed the madmen of 9/11 destroy me. Instead, take a lesson away from that day and find a new beginning. I finally went back to school and became a teacher in order to help the world become a better place because of what happened. You are better than the evil that men do - show the world what that means. I wish you all the best.
    Sincerely, Noemi Miller

  27. You are amazing. I'm crappy with sentiments and so many people before me have said way more than I could, but I've been thinking about you ever since I found out about it.

    And now that the cat's out of the bag, do we call you Suzi or Ashleigh? How about Ms. Burroughs? :)

  28. Sitting on my couch, recuperating, healing, mending and sleeping. I re-read the old comments and reveled in the new ones and I hope you all know that it was only the drugs and the pain that kept me from responding individually.

    Ashleigh writes this blog. Suzi got shot. I don't know if I'll be able to keep them separate, but I'm going to try. Both of us appreciate the sentiments and will continue to bathe in the love - from the interweb, from Tucsonans and from strangers from Oklahoma, too :)

    I love you all back!

  29. You are an amazing strong woman. What an amazingly poignant post. I cried for all those lost and injured but out of that came amazing stories of strength and heroism.


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