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January 13, 2011

The Personal Side of Tragedy

Michael Kurtianyk

I watched on television as the news unfolded from Tucson, Arizona. At the time of this writing, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is still fighting for her life because some wingnut decided to take a gun and shoot her and others at a Safeway store. Congresswoman Giffords was there for her first “Congress on Your Corner” event this year.


I’m sure we’ll hear from the left about gun control. This wasn’t about whether he should have had a gun or not; and not about whether he should have been issued a gun. This is about a disturbed boy (yes, I said ‘boy”, even though he’s 22), who, it turns out, had a history of awful behavior.


He was suspended from a community college after five encounters with the police.


He was arrested twice on graffiti and drug charges.


He was frightening his classmates with his outbursts.


He had an obsession with the Mayan prophecy of the 2012 apocalypse.


And you should see his ramblings on YouTube.


At a political rally two years ago at the college where the shooter was a student, Congresswoman Giffords failed to answer this question that he asked: “What is government if words have no meaning?” He became obsessed, irrationally, about Ms. Giffords. That it led to this tragedy is not a political issue, but rather a mental issue – the mental instability of this boy.


We live in a society that thirsts for information immediately, desiring only to be quenched, and then move on. CNN, NPR, and other media outlets said that Ms. Giffords was already dead. They failed to get confirmation, wanting only to scoop the competition.


Editorialists and pundits started polarizing this issue within hours of the tragedy. The liberals said this was about gun control. Conservatives were on the defensive, proving that the shooter was a registered independent, and that his political beliefs were not in play here.


Me? My thoughts go out to those who died. I think of Christina Green, the 9-year old who died. She was born on 9/11. That her life had such tragic bookends makes for a sad story. I can’t believe that she is gone. She was picked for the student council at her elementary school. Who knows – maybe she would have become president someday. We’ll never know now.


I think of federal Judge John Roll, who went to church that morning before going to Safeway. He started as a bailiff, and rose to the rank of chief judge for the District of Arizona. He was a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, as am I. This is a great loss.


I think of Ms. Giffords, whose astronaut-husband is scheduled to go up in space later this year.


I think mostly of my daughters Alexis and Tara. I thank God that I have them with me. They mean the world to me, and I can’t handle the thought of losing them.


We must do a better job in recognizing the signs of a nut like this shooter. As I heard someone say: “You can’t outsmart crazy.”


How true, and how sad.


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