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January 10, 2011

I guess now that city’s name enters our vocabulary the way “Colombine” did, or “Virginia Tech.” I typed the word “Tucson” last night in an email to my board member/friend in Arizona. I couldn’t get her and her husband, who is the Chair of the AZ Democratic Party, and their nine year old child out of my mind. I realized that this place, where I’ve never been and probably had never typed before (I wasn’t sure if it was spelled “sc” or “cs,” actually), is now a place that I’ll remember forever and think of often.

This would be a horrible situation, no matter who the victims were. But of course, when it has some sort of personal connection, it hits a little harder. I don’t know Rep. Giffords or any of the Tucson victims. I’m sure my friends in Arizona, and others I know who work in/around Congress know her. But I think about all the personal friends I do have who are, or work for, congressional representatives and other elected officials. I’ve staffed plenty of events like the one Rep. Giffords’ office was holding on Saturday. I’ve stood next to elected and public officials in dozens, if not hundreds, of events with no security, no control over who walks up to us.

When I started working in politics, especially on statewide campaigns, my mother’s biggest worry seemed to be that I would be in a small plane crash. Virginia is a big state; politicians fly from one end of it to the other all the time on the campaign trail. Several have been killed in crashes, some during their campaigns for office. As a statewide campaign scheduler, I argued on a midnight conference call against putting all three statewide candidates on a plane together.

But I don’t think that my mom ever worried about me being shot by a crazy person who didn’t agree with my boss. I guess it was a different time; people weren’t as angry as they seem to be now within the political debate. In general, mass shootings were not the periodic response to mental illness and perceived slights, that they have become.

Having said all that, I’m not ready to simplify this into an attack on Republicans’ gun analogies in campaigns. They’re not blameless, but I don’t think it’s that simple. One person I know in politics wrote a piece that sums up where I am on it now. I’m sure as more information comes out about the Tucson shooter, my opinions will evolve. But for now I’ll echo Mo’s feelings. It’s personal. Killing kids, staffers, humans… is personal.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 4:46 am

    I was a Senior in high school during Columbine and sat watching the drama unfold with a classmate who’d transferred from Columbine a month earlier. These were children my age killing their peers. I was terrified. I was a Sophomore in college when the stalker of one of my professors stormed onto campus and murdered one of my other professors right outside my dorm. He had enough ammunition to kill dozens of other students at Pacific Lutheran University, but apparently lost his nerve after his first victim fell and shot himself instead. This was an adult invading the place where we lived and worked, where we were supposed to be safe. I was terrified. I was in my last year of grad school at Radford University (10 miles away) when Virginia Tech happened. My husband was doing his student teaching at the elementary school right off of Tech’s campus. My baby was at a daycare 1/2 a mile from Tech’s campus. I couldn’t reach either one. It took hours for me to find out my family was safe. There were policemen with machine guns all over our campus, protecting us from – something. Nobody knew how many gunmen there were, when it was over, if they’d come to RU next. I was terrified.

    My question to politicians – you want to fight terrorism? Examine the experiences of Americans of my generation. Many of us have firsthand experience with terrorists.


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