Friday, December 7, 2012

Tucson Together

Tragedy in Tucson.  Tucson Massacre.  Victims.  Plaintiffs.

I hated those words.  I hated the emotional space they occupied in my brain.  The negativity overwhelmed me.  I was trying to stay positive, to look on the bright side, to concentrate on what I had and not what was taken.  Those words got in my way.

There is still nothing I can use to name that day. Incident is too small.  That day works only in context. The shooting is too harsh for most people to hear, and I have to respect that.  Tragedy sticks me deep in the sadness.  Massacre brings me right back to the cold pavement beneath my bleeding self.  I am open to suggestions; it's been twenty-three months and I'm still searching so don't fret if you come up empty, too.

In the days immediately following January 11, generous donations began to accumulate.  Television stations, hospitals, schools, churches, they all started funds to gather monies to help us through a tough time.  It was heart-warming and pocket-book filling and awful.  Tucson Tragedy Fund.  Tucson Victims Fund.  The names were all true.  The names were all filled with sorrow.

Then, something wonderful happened.  The fund managers actually spoke to one another and agreed to join together as one.  Under the watchful eye of the Pima County Attorney's Office, the monies were pooled and a Review Board was established. Funds would be distributed to cover incidental expenses that were not covered by insurance or one of the government's victim compensation funds.  The letter accompanying the offer of the first check suggested uses for the money: stationary and stamps to reach out and to thank, gas for appointments heretofore unneeded, counseling for family members, transportation for loved ones to visit and share the pain and the healing.  

Can you imagine how my heart was filled with the notion that others thought that thank you notes were a worthy way to spend my afternoons?  As I reclined on my couch, watching the sun move through the heavens over three long months, writing to family and friends and strangers near and far kept me connected.  Others understood that.  I wasn't alone.  I was supported.

At the first anniversary, another check was offered. It covered transportation for SIR and Little Cuter to join me for the first annual Stroll and Roll.  It covered permits and publicity for the event. It gave GRIN a sound financial footing, to cover stickers and colored paper and signage and markers and more stickers. They weren't asking for any receipts. They wanted us to have the money and they trusted us to do right with it. It filled a hole in my heart.

They were established to get us through the duration of the court cases.  Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney and human being extraordinaire, had not ruled out a local prosecution after the Federal case had been tried. She wanted to be sure that we were all covered. This had the potential to go on for years. Once the Department of Justice's elegant indictment, naming every one of us who was in the path of bullets that day, secured a conviction, without the possibility of parole or appeal, Ms LaWall stepped back. She will not be prosecuting the shooter, although it is her right to do so.

The shooter was convicted of harming each of us.  None of us must come to terms with incarceration-for-hurting-someone-else-but-not-me.  The judicial system served us all, and now it's done.  Ms LaWall recognized that there was nothing to be gained by further prosecution.  She told us so in the conference room after the sentencing hearing, holding the letter we'd signed, asking her to let it be.  She listened.  She thought.  She considered.  She decided.

We are all ever so very very grateful.

The thought of reliving the events for a trial was more than I could bear.  My testimony would have been required.  There would have been days of trial preparation set inside months of emotional angst.  I try to keep the shooter out of my head as much as I can; the passage of time makes that easier and easier.  Having another court case looming on the horizon was not something to which I was looking forward.  Not at all.

How rare and wonderful it is to know an elected official who is more concerned about the people involved than she is about herself.  There would have been a great deal of publicity for Ms LaWall and her office; she gave that up because it was the right thing to do.  She told us that it was over right when we were ending the Federal case.  There was no time spent worrying if we'd have to go through it all again.  She ended it right then and there.

The legal piece has closure... another of those words I do not like. No one will require that I allow the shooter into my personal space ever again.  I can say no to reporters and authors and strangers; I couldn't refuse the DOJ.  I have another small measure of control over my life, and I am grateful.

It's another way in which our community has come together, and it's reflected in the name and motto of the fund which has our backs.  It's called Tucson Together.  The logo exhorts the reader to Volunteer-Donate-Be Kind.

I can't think of a better way to start every day.


  1. There is no appropriate word for that which is unspeakable.

    What is it about humans that an unspeakable event often brings out the very best in us? I've seen that happen in our wonderful city. I believe it causes CT.... and the smile.

  2. Everyone knows what Sept 11, or 9/11 means ... maybe you can start saying "Jan. 8th." I sure see your problem! I can say "after my fall," or "after my knee injury," and it just isn't as bad to say as your options! I hope someone else can offer you a good solution.

  3. Thanks for the post. I had been looking for something related and found your web site in the process.. I will definitely be back for more.

  4. I don't know how you define a moment in your life that has such a huge impact. I think ForestGirl is right... it's not like you can be cavalier about it or brush it off. It has had a profound impact on your life an those of your family and friends. It was so horrific, I'm not even certain how you can define it in words. I hate the alliteration the media uses to describe tragic events (although I love it when Jon Stewart does it). It always makes me cringe. It makes light of tragedy and it just irks me to no end.

    I was happy the prosecutor took everyone's feelings into account. Why put you through that Hell all over again? What purpose does it serve. He will not ever see the light of day and will not be able to hurt another person. So some justice was done. I cannot say justice was done because to have real justice means to have that which is lost returned. :(

    You and your community need to heal and move forward. You cannot do that if you are looking back.

    Sending hugs,

    Megan xxx


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