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Shootings Will Rock Tucson For Some Time


A week ago today, a deranged man with a gun tried to kill Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. When his rampage was over, six people were dead and 13 were wounded. Congresswoman Giffords is recovering from a gunshot to the head. And as NPR's Ted Robbins reports, the city of Tucson is also recovering.

TED ROBBINS: Things like that don't happen here. That's a common response to inexplicable tragedy in a community. But the point is, the shooting did not just happen in Tucson, it happened to Tucson, and Tucson is trying to get its strength back.

GRACE PARRA: It's just going to take one day at a time and, you know, just be there, you know, be there for each other.

ROBBINS: Grace Parra is at Buddy's Bazaar on the playground of Walter Douglas Elementary School on Tucson's west side. It's a monthly gathering where low income families get food from the Tucson community food bank.

ALYSSA CESAR: Squash and oranges. Lemons are good.

ROBBINS: Unidentified Woman: So what you're going to do is (unintelligible) as you can, okay?

ROBBINS: Members of the University of Arizona swim team are helping the kids make glass and clay tiles for a big school mosaic. It was Jeannette Mare's idea. She runs a non-profit called Ben's Bells, which promotes kindness.

JEANNETTE MARE: With every of kindness you do, you're helping to heal this community. So if people can think about the people that we've lost, the people who died and the people that are injured, and in their honor do kindness wherever they are, and that that is no small thing.

ROBBINS: It's no small thing to heal when kids like seven-year-old Joey Parra(ph), Grace's son, are still asking questions about the shooting like this...

JOEY PARRA: She was just walking and then stopped and he just came up to her and shot her?

ROBBINS: Gabby Giffords was walking with constituents when she got shot. And Walter Douglas principal Tamara McAllister says talking is one way the school has been dealing with the tragedy.

TAMARA MCALLISTER: Because when they get their feelings and their questions out, they feel safer and they feel better, and that's what we're here to do.

ROBBINS: Taber MacCallum is a friend of Giffords, and head of Paragon Space Development, a Tucson aerospace company. He says that's one reason the city has responded by opening rather than closing itself off.

TABER M: It's all of our experience, rather than being a sort of a circle the wagon thing, I, you know, I need to hide this piece of shame.

ROBBINS: MacCallum is starting a fund in Giffords' honor to promote leadership in the space industry. He says it's one of many ways to channel energy into something positive to repair Tucson's image, and to promote civil discourse.

CALLUM: Well, I do think there's an opportunity to have Tucson seen or known as the beginning of the change, or the agent of change.

ROBBINS: For those directly involved, of course, healing is tough. Jacqueline Jackson used to work for Gabby Giffords. Last Saturday she was shopping at the Safeway near her home and talking with the Congresswoman's staff. She left to get her cell phone in her car, and the shooting began in front of her.

JACQUELINE JACKSON: The images are just locked in my brain, certainly. And it does comes back. It's been real - it's been hard to sleep, and I haven't been able to eat much at all.

ROBBINS: Jackson says she's simultaneously feeling bone-deep sorrow for those who were lost and profound gratitude that she is alive and that Gabby Giffords seems to be recovering. But she says along with the horrifying scene, there's another image which comes to her.

JACKSON: I think of this image of a tree that's hit by lightening, and that lightning's hit and the tree keeps growing, but it grows sideways or it goes around what this wound is. And at some level I think all of us, you know, were hit by lightening.

ROBBINS: Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.