Monday, January 9, 2012

Stroll and Roll ... I Can't Leave it Behind

I am out of words, denizens. The media, my friends, my family... they've taken them all and left me with a semi-exploding head and a heart wrapped in warmth. I'm going to take the next few days to unwind from the Stroll and Roll and the memories and the celebrations and the candlelight vigil and the news reports and the emails and cards and phone calls filled with love and thinking of you and encouragement. I know I'd promised to leave this episode behind me, but......

I nearly ran off the highway after dropping SIR and Little Cuter at the airport this morning when I heard the NPR announcer segue from one story to another like this: "Susan Hileman took her ...." It was so sad to be alone in the car; there was no one to hoot and holler with. I keep thinking that I am used to the celebrity, but I guess I'm really not.

A lovely young producer from The State of the Reunion sent me to KUAT's studios on the UofA campus where I read, and re-read and read once more for good measure a love letter I'd written to Tucson at their request. Ron Barber, Pat Maisch, Pam Simon and Ross Zimmerman also read letters and the producers, Tina Antollini and Laura Starcheski, wove our words into a love note to our town.  The entire letter is reprinted at the end of this post.

Enjoy the first round of photos from the Stroll and Roll
 (Thanks Little Cuter for sharing your talented camera work.)

It was a beautiful sunny day, especially for bikes with streamers.  
Christina-Taylor's friends were media stars.
The lonely face painter (front left) watches 

as Jadiann Thompson of KPHO (in the pink... my new favorite television person) films the love.
An entire post on the Arizona Rangers is forthcoming. 
For now, here is a quick peek at a piece of my personal security detail

"Don't miss any opportunities" said this 94 year old,
Inter-generational experiences don't only have to be grown-ups and kids, it seems.  These two have breakfast together every weekend; the younger is the daughter of a woman who taught the elder.  
I love the connections as much as I love the shirt and skirt combo.
Volunteers in commemorative t-shirts at the end of the event.

The t-shirts are gorgeous and many of them are still sitting in a box in my garage.  If you are interested in purchasing one ($15 covers the shirt and shipping) send an email to .Tell me what size you need; instructions will follow.
(NOTE ADDED April, 2018 - I still have a variety of t-shirts available. $15 donation, shipping included.)

The logo on the front of the shirt.


Dear Tucson,

I was shot on January 8th while holding my 9-year old friend's hand. She is dead and I am here.

Christina-Taylor and I were waiting to shake our Congresswoman's hand. We went from thrilled to damaged in an instant. What I didn't realize at the time was that the same thing had happened to the rest of you, too.

A week later, still an in-patient, I was wheeled through the vigil garden outside UMC. There were candles and flowers and butterflies and daisy chains and streamers and sculptures. There were hand made drawings from little girls and grown men. There were potted plants and bouquets wrapped in papers from California and Oklahoma and Yuma.

Luz de Luna's 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 their teacher 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. It's what I've felt every day since I got shot.

I moved through the path of offerings, feeling overwhelmed. I had thought that I would be anonymous. I was not. I was noticed. Looked at. Marveled at. Watched. Approached. I was hugged and prayed over and smiled at and my hand was shaken, my shoulder touched, my knee patted. And it still going on today.
This happened to all of us. I know that I am not alone. You were out there with me, Tucsonans. You with your teary eyes and your outstretched arms and your healing grace are helping me to heal. 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.
In the gym, at the bookstore or the deli counter, at the Sonoran hot dog stand or waiting at the post office, you look twice and then smile as I say Yes, please do. It's okay to hug me.” Cashiers at big box stores and fellow patients at physical therapy throw their arms around me and we share the love. I'm not sure who is helping whom, but I do know that it works for me.

This is who we are. We are Tucsonans. Old or young, Native American or transplanted New Yorker, we share a palpable sense of place. This is our home. When one of us suffers we all feel the pain. There are times when there are no degrees of separation between us.
This is our melting pot, our cultural stew, our place to be ourselves under the warmest sun, atop the driest earth.
We have the Catalinas and the Santa Ritas and the Pusch Ridge and we have each other. We have chosen hope over fear, civility over anger.
When people ask me if I am sorry that we moved to Tucson I shake my head and quickly disabuse them of the notion that there might be anyplace else I'd want to live. You brought us dinners and knitted us prayer shawls and you called to see if we needed anything from the market. You respected my privacy but pointed me out to your children as the hostess seated you. You told me that you were praying for me and I told you that it helped.
You are anxious to get involved as I move forward – and that is what I love most of all.
We're not going backwards. We're not stuck in time. We're not obsessed. We are bruised but not broken. We are healing, publicly and privately, and if I can help by walking tall then I'll stand a little straighter and walk a little longer. I'll do it for you.
I love you, Tucson, just as much as you love me.
Suzi Hileman


  1. Thanks AB and Little Cuter for all of the pictures. Although this picture isn't included, it's one of my favorites....

    The hug someone here was just so sweet. Even though I wasn't there, I still got a sense of the walk and the love and hope that were there that day.

    I know the past few days have been particularly hard on you (not that any other day is easy), but I'm sending you a heartwarming hug.

    Megan xxx

  2. I saw you on TV here in Seattle, and I thought " Oh there is my friend" even though I have never met you. Through your blog, you are a window for the whole country into the events in Tucson through this last year. You have shared your struggles with healing while the city heals around you. You are all remarkable!

  3. Suzi, thought about you all weekend. I so agree with Linda Reeder's comment. Your endurance, love and courage make you such a leader. Thank you.

  4. It seems to me that Tucson was already turned into a slaughterhouse. What are they doing to see that this doesn't happen again? Guns everywhere. What will stop people from using them again?

  5. Dear Suzi,
    Thank you for sharing your letter (my eyes are still filled with tears). God bless you and help you to continue to heal and get stronger every day. Hugs to you from me.

  6. Very powerful...those letters. It makes me take pause and reflect on how lucky I a wife, as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a woman.

  7. "When one of us suffers, we all feel the pain."

    Yes. Yes. I think this is one way of saying that we are all connected, and as long as we allow ourselves to be connected to others, we will feel ...whether we are in Tucson or far away.

    I'm glad you were so well supported by the people of Tucson. My wish would be that everyone feel so.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!