Thoughts on a Tragedy
This post does not really have anything to do with photography, but I still wanted to write it.
Every few years, I experience something that I think will be with me forever. I remember sitting in front of the TV on February 1, 2003 and seeing the loss of the Columbia. In late September of 2005, I was following my wife’s car with two cats howling at me as we evacuated Houston before Hurricane Rita made landfall. This past Saturday on January 8 of 2011, tragedy struck Tucson.
As I’m sure everyone knows, there was an attack on a crowd of people who gathered to meet US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords, the target of this attack, suffered a point-blank gunshot wound to her head. As a write this, she is improving but is not out of danger yet and the extent of brain damage she sustained is not known.
Six people were killed that day and fourteen others were injured. Among the killed were a federal judge who just happened to stop by to say hello and a 9-year old girl who had just been elected to her student council. Given that I have a little girl of my own, that was difficult for me to handle. I hope I never have to experience their loss.
While I have never been to the Safeway where the shooting occurred, I have driven by it numerous times. It is, at most, a fifteen minute drive from my house. Since she lives near there, one of my coworkers learned of the shooting by driving by shortly after it happened. My wife’s coworker knew one of the victims and the child of one of her friends had a class with the alleged killer at Pima Community College. To paraphrase my wife, even though Pima County has over a million people, it’s still a small town where there are few degrees of separation. When something like this happens, it affects everyone including me.
Those who know me know that I often have thoughts like this:
I would love to go to [insert someplace] because it would be amazing to take photographs there.
After things became sorted out from the original chaos, vigils were being planned for that night. After hearing of the gatherings, my first thought was that I wanted to go and take pictures. However, this time it was different. Normally, when some disaster occurs, I wonder what I can do to help but there is often little I can do. In a case like this, money wasn’t needed and there was nothing I could volunteer to do. However, this time I had a camera. I wanted to document the feelings and faces of those affected by that day. Photographs are amazing things: snapshots of time, memory, and emotions. It could have been my way to help. Unfortunately, I work my full time job on Saturday nights and I didn’t ask if I could call out. I should have but I didn’t and it really made my night difficult. I like my job but I wanted to do something. I also did not attend the memorial service that was held yesterday at the University of Arizona campus. I was alone with my daughter when I happened to drive by and saw the line was already quite long. There was still more than 6 hours to do before the event and was not prepared for such a wait.
I haven’t listened to the speeches yet, but I look forward to hearing them. My wife told me that she was very touched by President Obama’s speech:
They believed — they believed, and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life here –- they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us.
Politics aside, Gabrielle Giffords always seemed like someone that would just be great to meet. Especially since Saturday, I have heard amazing things about her personality. From what I can tell, she loves life and is always upbeat. While I fear the opportunity may be lost, I would like to meet her one day. It won’t be soon, but it is something I hope to do.
There is more I could say. I could say something about how the recent political climate from both sides of the aisle has left a sour taste in my mouth, but there are those who are taking it down a notch*. I could say something about the horrid comments left on some of the articles I’ve read, but I’ll take the same advice I gave my wife: Don’t read them!” I want to finish on a positive note, so I am going to close with just this quote from President Obama’s speech:
All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
*- Please note that while these links lean left, they are the ones that the Wikipedia article linked to above used as references. I will gladly add more. Just post them in the comments below and I will add them to the article.