I hear adults (ie...people older than me) talk about catastrophic events that occurred in their lifetimes, momentous occasions that forever burned into their memory the place they were, the people they were with. I've experienced that only rarely in my life (which I consider to be a blessing), but the last few days have given me another to grapple with. The shootings that occurred on Saturday, January 10th, did not just affect the people of Tucson, but as a current resident of the city, I am affected much more than I would have been in Oregon. How affected? I'm still finding out.
I found out about the shootings via a text message from one of my roommates as I was on my way out for a hike. The details came intermittently through the morning as we came in to and left service on the hike, giving us a decent idea of what had happened, although no one knew many details at that time. I got back that afternoon and spent most of the rest of the evening reading reports, recaps, and responses to the shootings.
While I felt an incredible sense of loss at the senseless deaths of innocent people, I had no personal connection. I've only been in Tucson 4 months. But as Saturday evening progressed into Sunday, my connectedness got closer. Jacob and Brandon run w/ the father of Gabe Zimmerman. A couple in Brandon's community are very close with the family of Ron Barber. And when I went to church Sunday morning at Southside Presbyterian, I met with many people directly in relationship w/ those involved in the shooting. Even though just Saturday night I felt insulated and unable to connect with the tragedy in my community, I was quickly reminded how interconnected we all are.
And Sunday mornings children's time at church was the gut check for me. And really, should be for all of us. For when the pastor asked for the prayers of the children, the children spoke for little Christina Green, age 9, who was killed. And they prayed for Congresswoman Giffords. And they prayed for the families of all those who had been shot. And then one little girl said "We should pray for the man with the gun, because he was lonely and didn't have any friends."
The church was silent. So many adults who preach peace hadn't been feeling very peaceful in their hearts. I was one of them. But maybe when Jesus said we must be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven this is what he was talking about. Instead of drawing a line between us and someone who had committed a heinous atrocity, instead of trying to call attention to how different he is from all of us, the little girl identified with the part of him that is real and human. And I think that's what Jesus would do too.
Tonight I was part of a bike ride/vigil that went down to the University Medical Center where Congresswoman Giffords is being cared for. The hundred or so bikers I was with slowly made our way down to the vigil, and found at least 200 people already there, gathered in a grassy knoll covered in candles, notes, signs, balloons, and flowers. As I stood there with my candle, I looked at the faces around me. Even when we don't feel it, we are connected. Every person there probably had their own reasons for coming, but they were there...and so was I. Whether I even know it or realize it...I'm a part of things down here in Tucson now.
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. We may be in the darkness of the night...but I have hope and faith that daylight is coming, and the dawn will break through.