Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with her husband, Mark Kelly, led the pledge of allegiance
Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
The sun had fallen and a crowd had gathered on a chilly Sunday night on the mall at the University of Arizona at the start of the last event marking the first anniversary of the mass shooting here a year ago. The event started with a leading of the Pledge of Allegiance.
And the person leading it was Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
The crowd responded with cheers and gasps as Ms. Giffords, wearing a bright red scarf, walked slowly across the stage, helped at times by Ron Barber, her chief of staff who was also shot that day and who was leading the vigil on Sunday. And with no apparent difficulty, Ms. Giffords led the crowd through the pledge, holding her right arm with her left hand. She finished with a clear, broad smile to the audience and slowly walked off the stage.
It was a dramatic footnote to the end of two days of ceremony here that were remarkable for how understated they were. A year ago, after the shooting spree that left 6 dead and 13 wounded, including Ms. Giffords, residents of this city gathered in an expression of grief and shock that lasted for weeks. There were a blur of funerals, a crush of flowers, candles and well-wishers on the expanse of lawn at the hospital where victims were taken, and a visit by President Obama that drew thousands.
On this anniversary, there was the candlelight vigil, an interdenominational prayer service and a ringing of bells at 10:11 a.m., marking the moment of the attack, and the reading of the names of the victims. There was Ms. Giffords herself visiting places that have become landmarks of the attack: the Safeway supermarket at the parking lot where the shootings took place and the Internsive Care Unit at the University of Arizona Medical Center where those injured in the shootings were treated…
For Tucson, this is a turning point as it searches for a way to mark the tragedy — to give it meaning beyond the day itself — without the images from the Safeway parking lot becoming the first thing people think of at the mention of Tucson.
“We refuse to let this tragic day define us,” Patricia Maisch, one of the women who wrested the gun from the shooter, said at a service memorializing the victims at a hall at the University of Arizona.
There will be no aid from the Governor of Arizona, her Republican counterparts in the state legislature or those Republicans elected to represent the people of Arizona in Congress. They will blithely trot out their “understanding” of the murders in terms hackneyed enough to be two centuries away from reality.
Republicans and teabaggers alike will give thanks to a Democrat Party so cowed by the political clout and lobbying dollars of the NRA and the gun industry’s predominant cartel, the Freedom Group, they wouldn’t say “boo” to a 12-year-old carrying an Uzi.
The survivors of the murders will carry on alone – except for the millions of Americans of good will and courage who care about freedom for those who defend Free Speech without needing concealed weapons.