When the news of the mass shooting in Tucson began to circulate on Saturday, a memory from two years ago emerged in my mind. Gabrielle Giffords was in attendance at the Western-themed Empire Ranch Round-Up in Sonoita, Arizona.
Giffords kept a smile on her face the entire time at that outdoor event. Her eyes scanned the crowd constantly to find people to engage with in conversation. There was no security entourage that could be seen surrounding her. A steady stream of people approached her to say hello.
Wild horses cannot keep Gabby from an event, from engaging with the public. That’s what we expect. It is just Gabby being Gabby. She is accessible to people, just like she was on Saturday.
Gabrielle Giffords, a supporter of gun rights, was among the casualties shot at Safeway. Safeway, a busy neighborhood grocery store where one normally feels…safe. A stark contradiction of how things were expected to go on that day.
As I watched news coverage on Saturday morning, trying to make sense of what had happened, memories of September 11th emerged in my mind. That day started normally, too, except that many people were late to work, exercising their right to vote. They died in Shanksville, the Pentagon, and inside the World Trade Center.
Those of us far away from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania could only watch the coverage on television, while trying to make sense in our minds of what was happening.
The words ‘Al Qaeda’ weren’t known to us yet. We could only speculate at that point about who would do something like that. Who would kill innocent people who didn’t do anything wrong?
My thoughts turned back to the news of what was happening in Tucson on Saturday. The national media reported Gabrielle Giffords dead, contrary to what local Tucson media reported. What were we supposed to believe? National media eventually retracted their version of events and apologized that they did not have their facts correct.
Within minutes, Twitter and Facebook immediately began buzzing with speculation about who could have shot Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents. It had to be a ‘right-winger’, a ‘Tea Partier’, the messages said. Contradictory news emerged from the friends and acquaintances of the shooter, Jared Loughner. They said that Loughner was ‘a leftist’. Those on the left cried, “he’s not one of us”, “he doesn’t share our values”. It was Sarah Palin, it was Glenn Beck, it was the Tea Party, they said. Somehow, they are responsible. All of the speculation based on short, nonsensical videos on Loughner’s YouTube page, and from who they expect to be blamed.
Then, due to Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s speculation that the ‘rhetoric of violence’ was responsible for the massacre, those words continue to circulate. Still, based on a lack of evidence. Speculation from a Sheriff, no less. At time when we are supposed to come together in a tragedy, not be ripped apart as a result of one. A glaring contradiction from the facts that a Sheriff is supposed to provide to the public in an emergency. All law enforcement has to go on is physical evidence at this point. Yet, our own Sheriff spews speculation, adding fuel to a fire that should have never started.
Loughner is not cooperating, not talking.
Now, a campaign has started against talk show host Jon Justice for speaking out against Sheriff Dupnik’s words. Isn’t it free speech that the left is now trying to silence?
All of this while the voices of the dead will never again be heard. Gabby Giffords clings to life at the center of the tragedy, unable to speak.
If Gabby could speak, what would she say? It’s not our place to speculate. Instead, we’ll have to wait – and hope that she can someday voice her own thoughts to us.
What are the facts? We now know that his massacre was planned, based on physical evidence found at the Loughner home. It was planned for a long time. Loughner is ‘mentally unstable’ and there’s no proof that Palin, Beck or others influenced his killing spree. There’s only speculation. That is a fact.
Evidence has emerged that Pima Community College thought Loughner to be potentially mentally unstable several months ago.
Loughner’s profile on YouTube is presented with words used in the past tense. We can take from that evidence that he thought he was going to die on Saturday, shot by law enforcement or die by his own hand. Loughner didn’t expect to be subdued by bystanders. Loughner didn’t expect Giffords to survive his attack. A contradiction to well-laid plans.
Among the dead that Loughner did not plan to kill, except for the fact that they just happened to be there, was Judge John Roll. Judge Roll made an unplanned stop at the Safeway. For a while, it was unknown if Roll was the intended target. We now know that he was not. Christina Taylor Green was there, and we now know that she planned to meet Gabrielle Giffords.
We also now know that Christina Taylor Green, 9, was born on September 11, 2001, only to die in another massacre. She was featured in the book, “Faces of Hope”, showcasing babies born on 9/11. This child’s death should serve as a reminder that speculation only stirs up hatred and does not reflect the facts.
As evidenced so far, the lesson has not been learned.