Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The weirdness continues.

I live close by University Medical Center and drive past it every day at least once. The access roads bristle with satellite trucks, dishes, and antennas, techs with headphones milling among the cops and correspondents, cables snaking the sidewalks. Clutches of people still surround the makeshift shrine on the lawn, day and night, harshly illuminated after the sun goes down in the strange cold light of the TV cameras.

Tucson still leads the newscast on NPR. Still the banner on all the major news sites. Maybe even still on the BBC, although I haven't checked in a while.

Saturday had dawned cold but clear, and by the time I had walked to the university for coffee and back, the sun was warm enough for me to take off my hat and gloves. It was a perfect day for a stroll, so I dawdled and sipped my coffee, and then spent a happy hour or so puttering around in the yard and half-assedly dusting and sweeping inside. It was a perfectly mellow morning.

Then my girlfriend called and said to turn on the news. My jaw does not often hit the ground. But I sat there for the next ten minutes, my mouth hanging open and my hands on my head, watching and listening, stunned at what had happened and taken aback by how much of my brain was insisting that this simply could not be real. I thought to call my ex, who lives in the vicinity of the Safeway where the shootings happened, to make sure he hadn't stopped for milk at a bad time. His wife answered his cell. He had been hit by a car while riding his bike that morning, and was in the UMC trauma unit, having arrived about twenty minutes before the shooting victims.

And the world slipped one more cog and reeled even more off center.

My girlfriend came home and we sat and watched and listened, all afternoon. I finally set out for the store late in the afternoon when we realized a leftover bag of Wheat Thins wouldn't do it for the evening, to Safeway--not that Safeway--and it was like going out at seven on a Sunday morning rather than late Saturday afternoon. The streets and the store were fairly empty, the few people out subdued and quiet, sad, wary. I went home. We huddled.

One million people live in the Tucson metropolitan area, but this is still a small town in many ways. I don't know any of the victims personally, but two of my friends do. It seems everyone knows someone who knows someone, or who lives nearby, or was having coffee across the street when it happened, who heard the helicopters coming closer and closer and suddenly realized in rapidly succeeding waves of comprehension that something terrible had happened.

The vitriol has been flying. Sheriff Dupnik pissed people off by speaking frankly about the ugliness in the nation finding a Mecca in Arizona. Sarah Palin's people yapped about surveyor's symbols. The gunman turned out to be a nutter and one of the heroes of the day admitted he almost mistakenly shot one of the other heroes in the heat of the moment, but the legislature responds by trying to figure out how to get more people carrying guns and forgets the part about Arizona gutting funding for mental health care. The president is coming tomorrow and will be speaking mere blocks from my house. I almost don't want to think about the possible outcomes, verbal, legislative, or otherwise.

And the candles continue flickering on the UMC lawn, under the sun and under the lights.

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