Yes, it’s been two years since that fateful day when Jared Lee Loughner chose to go to that Safeway at the SE corner of Oracle/Ina, and attempted to assassinate CD 8 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He ended up shooting 19 people, 6 fatally. And he wounded and injured a then-39 year old Congresswoman, who had to resign the job that she loved after a year of recovery. She now walks with a limp, uses an arm brace on her right arm, has become left handed, and is partially blind in her right eye.
Clearly, Jared Loughner was mentally ill, and pled guilty to these crimes. He is being treated in a mental hospital where he will serve the remainder of his days, as his life sentences have no possibility of parole.
What have we as a community learned from this horrendous mass shooting, right here in our midst? Almost all of us knew someone in that shooting. I was personally acquainted with Gabby, having worked on her campaigns. I knew her Outreach Director Gabe Zimmerman, who was struck down on that sidewalk. I knew aide Pam Simon, who was also shot but recovered. I know now Ron Barber who was shot twice that day, and who as her District Director stepped up to the plate and ran for Congress in CD 8 and CD 2 upon Gabby’s endorsement and request. My professor husband knew Gabby as well, and had taught Suzi Hileman who was shot and injured that day. She was the neighbor who had taken nine-year old Christina Taylor-Green to that Congress on your Corner event, and Christina died that day.
Clearly Loughner was ill, but why didn’t people notice enough? Pima Community College had expelled him due to mental problems but he didn’t get counseling help which he clearly needed. He was living with his parents, Randy and Amy Loughner, but they couldn’t or didn’t get help for him as he was over 18 years old. And where did he (an unemployed 22 year old) get the hundreds of dollars to pay for the Glock 9 gun and the two magazine clips he was captured with? I had worked as a board member for 3 years with Amy who manages Agua Caliente Park out east in Pima County. And I have also worked for a year with Gabe’s mother Emily Nottingham on the Casitas on Broadway board. Two mothers, two shattered lives.
Yes, we as a community have grieved over the past 2 years — a huge outpouring of sympathy and support at all the memorials — at Gabby’s former Swan/Pima office, at that Safeway on Oracle (where a permanent stone memorial was erected by the store), and at University Medical Center where most of the injured were taken to. Generous donations were made for the victims to help them recover, and to various foundations to help children & students in the names of the deceased.
Now there are Beyond Tucson annual events to commemorate, heal, and move beyond the pain & horror of that day. Now people ring bells at 10:10 a.m.on January 8th when the shooting occurred, and now the politicians talk about gun control especially for firearms with a capacity to be used for mass killing. Also now there are multi-faith services in Tucson bringing together people of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i faiths.
Since then there have been attempts at more civility in public discourse, and two foundations created expressly for that purpose. We all remember January 8, 2011 and hopefully we will remember to watch out for danger signals in isolated, depressed young men, to lobby for better mental health services, and more effective gun control to prevent criminals and mentally sick from obtaining firearms.
Hopefully we have become better people after this mass shooting of January 8, 2011. And if you have any creative ideas about what type of permanent memorial should be erected, click here for my previous post about the January 8th Memorial Foundation.