This week, in the wake of tragedy, Tucson witnessed—and inspired—an amazing coming-together of people by the tens of thousands. In both grief and solidarity, the people of Tucson have hosted vigils and memorials, with cities around the country following suit. They have created online groups and organized on-the-ground action. There are angels watching over the families of victims and cyclists whizzing through the streets. Yesterday evening, more than 26,000 attended the public memorial in Tucson at the University of Arizona, including President Obama.
Today, local residents gathered near the funeral of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest of 20 victims of a shooting spree Saturday that shook the nation. Some came dressed as angels, to stand in solidarity with the victim’s family and allow their wings to protect the family from any possible hate speech. Others formed lines on each side of the road—strung hand to hand—as they awaited the motorcade hearse. At the funeral, firefighters unfolded and hung a large American flag recovered from Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001: the day Christina was born.
And there are five more funerals for the victims whose bullet wounds proved fatal. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the attack, is still in critical condition.
What’s most heartening is to witness how quickly local residents gathered to honor the dead and pray for the wounded. After covering community responses to hate incidents for 15 years, we understand that the most extraordinary work happens by ordinary citizens.
In a note from Rick Johnson, one of the organizers behind the effort to support and protect victims’ families at funerals, he wrote:
Tuscon, Ariz. on Jan. 13. A.E. Araiza, Arizona Daily Star
"We are a small, loose, rag-tag groups of volunteers who really are nothing more than concerned and compassionate citizens who are responding to this tragedy. None of this would be possible without the selfless caring acts of our volunteers, businesses, and support of the community. They are the angels who are carrying the message of love to the hurting."
Interest was so high they created another website, Tucson Memorial. The website includes information on donating to the Tucson Tragedy Victims Fund and even provides a Guestbook for those to leave comments for the families of the victims.
Others found innovative ways to honor the victims. On Tuesday, Damion Alexander, publisher of Tucson Pedaler, organized a bike vigil that began at the University of Arizona and included a stop at the UMC to light candles. As it states in this video of the event, Rep. Giffords is a cyclist.
Alexander says the recent events have sparked mixed emotions. Of the people of Tucson, he says, “They are living with the pain of it, but they are still choosing to celebrate the heroes of the moment instead of the gloom of last week. I understand and love this. I also am very sad. I fight back tears by working. I create bike vigils to try and build community. I look forward to tomorrow as it is one more day removed from this painful day and perhaps if I deal with it tomorrow, it will be a little easier.”
“As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
How are you supporting Tucson? Please let us know, as we would love to share any and all ideas throughout the community.