Jan 152011

Most days, I relish soaking up the brilliant sunshine and a view of the Santa Catalina Mountains jutting up so crisp and bold against the brilliant azure sky. On September 11, 2001 and January 8, 2011, the beauty of the southern Arizona days made what occurred seemed unimaginable; like a dreadful nightmare. Surely I will awaken any moment, I thought. Terrorists couldn’t have crashed planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, killing thousands of innocent people on a day when not a cloud marred the sky. A young man couldn’t have shot my Congresswoman and killed six innocent people including a nine-year-old child who attended the same elementary school as my two children on a day when cheery sunlight illuminated every room in my house. Yet both of those events really happened. And forever changed me. I remember…

On September 11, I had just dropped my children off at their elementary school and waved goodbye to them after they stepped out from the car and slung their back packs over their shoulders. It was just another ordinary day, I thought. Except traffic was lighter than usual. On my way home, I was approaching the intersection of La Canada and Magee when my cell phone rang. It was my husband. “Planes crashed into the Twin towers,” said the man I trust more than anyone on earth. My first response was “Yeah, right.” I couldn’t wrap my brain around his words. And I wanted more than anything to shut them out. But when my husband continued to explain what had happened, his pain evident in his voice, I realized that this horrible event had really happened. We had been ruthlessly attacked. There were people in the world who hated so intensely, they had no regard for any person’s life, no matter whether that person might be a stockbroker working in the World Trade Center or a child traveling on one of the airplanes. I wished in the midst of all of that, I could stand as tall as the Santa Catalina Mountains. If I had been the sun, I would have stopped shining completely. I would have somehow felt it wasn’t right to shine so brightly on a day when so many husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, brothers, sisters, and friends were forever lost.

On January 8, 2011, I enjoyed a morning swim with the SaddleBrooke swim club. As most of you know, I thrive on a good workout and after a wonderful swim, I exited the pool about 10:00, feeling so elated that my skin tingled. All was well with the world. That was until the moment my cell phone rang. I answered the phone to hear my daughter hysterically crying. “Gabby Giffords has been shot. They killed her,” she said. I felt like someone had socked me in the chest. I could hear the suffering in her voice. She had volunteered in her office during the 2010 campaign and during that time, had learned what a kind and caring person she was. My first thought was “No!” The next thought was “how could anyone do that to her of all people?”

I told my daughter to stay put in the restaurant where she was with friends until she was calm enough to come home. She told me she was sorry she had ever been mad at me and that she loved me. I told her I loved her too and that I would turn on the news as soon as I got home and try to find out what happened. As soon as I hung up, I burst into tears and relayed the terrible story to my husband. When we got home, we turned on the news and learned that Gabrielle Giffords was still alive. I called my daughter immediately. “Those reporters were wrong,” I said. “She’s still alive. Let’s pray for her.”

We spent the rest of the day watching the suffering and carnage a terrorist of a different sort had inflicted on his fellow Americans. A very unbalanced 22-year-old male had brought a semi-automatic weapon, an extended magazine and 90 bullets to the shopping plaza where Gabrielle Giffords was conducting a Congress on the Corner event, and opened fire, first shooting Gabrielle and continuing to take down almost everyone else who was there in line to see her. Good people had taken the gunman down, grabbed his gun, and began trying to help people. The paramedics arrived on scene very quickly and were able to save lives. Yet one life they weren’t able to save was Christina Taylor Green, recently elected to student council at her school. Blue sky and mountains were the backdrop for all the dreadful images that came up on the television screen. Helicopters landing on Ina Road. People being carried away on stretchers. Victims standing there shell-shocked in blood-stained clothes. I didn’t want the sky to be blue that day. If I had made the sky, I would have stained it grey or maybe even red. Then it wouldn’t have hurt as badly to see all the bloodshed that day. But on second thought, it really wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Who cares about the weather on days like these? There is to much else to contemplate. I’m thinking about being a better person. Not just today but forever.

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