Friday, January 28, 2011

Reaction to the Shootings in Tucson

I live in Arizona, so folks in different parts of the country have been asking for my reaction to the recent shootings in Tucson. I don’t live in that part of the state, however, and I don’t know any of the folks who were involved. But like Americans all over the country, I’ve been absolutely heartbroken. As a Christian, I view all human life as sacred, and a precious gift. The loss of any human life is tragic, but especially so when it is taken so senselessly and so cruelly.

I was deeply touched by several aspects of what happened that Saturday morning in Tucson. It was profoundly moving that two husbands—Dorwin Stoddard and George Morris--used their own bodies to shield their wives--Mavanell Stoddard and Dorothy Morris--from the bullets. To use one’s own body to protect someone like that is an amazing expression of love. My husband and I have talked about that sacrifice several times since the tragedy; we’ve been very moved.

I was so proud of the ordinary people on the scene at the grocery store who risked their own safety to stop the gunman’s violence. Patricia Maisch snatched away the gunman’s ammunition before he could reload and shoot again. Bill Badger, a 74-year old retired colonel, who himself had already been shot, somehow found the strength and presence of mind to tackle the gunman. Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zamudio helped Colonel Badger restrain the gunman. I’m awed by the courage and selflessness these people displayed.

I was also so deeply proud of the selfless courage of Daniel Hernandez, a young man who had just begun an internship with Representative Giffords’s office days before. Mr. Hernandez is a twenty-year old college student. He is also an openly gay man, who is a member of Tucson’s City Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender issues. Amidst the chaos of the bullets, Mr. Hernandez rushed to the congresswoman’s side after she was shot; he applied pressure to her wounds and kept her from choking on blood. He is credited with having saved her life. Mr. Hernandez then rode to the hospital with Representative Giffords and comforted her in the ambulance. Afterwards, he explained that he had long looked up to Representative Giffords. He commented, “It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots, but people needed help.” I am amazed that someone so young acted with such heroism, putting people who “needed help” above his own physical well-being. I’ve been on this planet twice as long as Mr. Hernandez, but with great humility, I admit that I am not sure I would have reacted in the same way if I had been in his shoes. Mr. Hernandez is an inspiration and a role model for all of us.

I was also proud of David and Nancy Bowman, a doctor and a nurse, who were doing their grocery shopping. They set up an on-site triage to minister to those who had been shot. It is amazing that such individuals could put aside their own fear and emotional trauma to use their professional skills to help save lives.

The tragedy of the Tucson shootings is very painful to me even though I have not known any of the victims personally. I could relate to many of the people who were impacted directly. As a mother, the unthinkable murder of a child is hard to comprehend or accept. As a wife, I was heart-broken for the spouses who were widowed. As someone who grew up in D.C., interned on Capitol Hill and have known plenty of fine people who worked for members of Congress, I was aghast that a congressional staffer was killed while doing his job and serving constituents. And as a lawyer and a person who believes in the rule of law, I’m absolutely devastated that a lawmaker was expressly targeted for assassination and a judge was killed in the shooting spree. Moreover, as a Christ follower, I can identify with the fact that the judge had just come from attending daily mass at his church. None of these people deserved the cruel, premature taking of their precious lives; none of their loved ones deserved to have them snatched from them. What an unimaginable void that must leave in their lives.

I was in an airport out-of-state when I first learned of the shootings. I had called my husband to check in with him when he told me what had happened. He had been running errands all day and first heard something about the events in Tucson when he was at church that evening; the victims of the shooting were included in the congregation’s prayers during the service. As we spoke on the phone and tried to piece together what had happened, my husband and I were both horrified and stunned by the violence. It was hard to process what had happened.

Even many days later, when people mention the shootings, my eyes moisten. I had felt embarrassed by this reaction until a friend of mine (who is also a wife, mom and a lawyer) mentioned she has been crying a lot.

Another friend of mine shared that she also has had a heavy heart because of the shootings. She told me her immediate reaction when she heard the news was to go into prayer to cover the victims, their families, the first responders and everyone else with God’s love. She added, she even prayed for the man who did the shooting because obviously he was troubled and needed prayer as well. I was so proud of my friend for her generous spirit. It is hard for us humans to pray for the well-being of someone who inflicts so much fear and pain. But of course, as Christ followers, that is what we’re called to do.

Matthew 18:21-35 (New American Standard Bible)

Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
"When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
"But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
"So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'
"And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
"But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'
"So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'
"But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
"So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
"Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'
"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
"My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

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