04 January 2012

Commemorations

Nearly 365 days. How does a mother stand it? How many of those days has she wept, standing in the shower, hearing a snippet of favorite song? How does a father not break into pieces at the sight of an empty ball field?

On Sunday, January 8th, one year will have passed since the horrors of senseless violence rocked Tucson to its knees. Nineteen people shot. Six dead. Oh yes, I know terrible tragedy happens every day: University of Texas, Virginia Tech, Columbine, San Ysidro. And as someone told me right after it happened, why shouldn't  it happen in Tucson? What's so special about your town that it should be spared such depravity? I couldn't--can't-- answer that other than to wish we could find a sensible way to control the ease with which people slaughter one another everywhere. What we can aspire to and what we will achieve are vastly separated by avarice, fear, and stubbornness.

The makeshift memorial outside University Medical Center, January 10, 2010
But that's not what I want to address today. How do parents go on breathing as the world goes on turning? There is nothing so incomprehensible than the death of a young child. The mind can't explain, can't grasp any sort of reason that creates a sense of acceptance. The Green family, who lost Christina Taylor-Green on that sunny Saturday morning, decided to share the goodness and hope their daughter exuded in her nine years. They started a foundation in her name, and will mark her passing with an Each One Take One Fun Walk on Saturday along the pathway bearing her name, for everyone to celebrate the joy of being outside in the fabulous desert air.

The parents of Gabe Zimmerman, the thirty-year-old aide to Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was killed 361 days ago, are preserving his memory by having a trail head named in his honor. Davidson Canyon, a starkly gorgeous place southeast of Tucson, connects to The Arizona Trail running from Mexico to Utah. By all accounts, Gabe loved nature and outdoor events and was an avid hiker. What could be a more appropriate way to preserve his joyful fervor than to name a hiking trail for him?

Still, it must be incredibly bittersweet for his parents to walk that trail, remembering how their son loved such activities and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. As difficult as it must be for every parent who has lost an adult son or daughter in the military, or to random violence of being at the wrong place at a terrible time.

The families of Judge John Roll, Dorthy Murray, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard mourn the loss of their spouse, parents, grandparents, and siblings. And they, too, were each someone's child.

Tragedy affects us all at some time in our lives. The choice of how to respond is our own. Tucson has made strides to be positive and come together as a community in the near-year since January 8th. My hope is that we continue to search for practical solutions and help for those suffering from mental illness to reduce the probability of it happening again any time soon.

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