Monday, January 10, 2011

Week 15: What Do We Say About Tucson?

Everyday at school, I explain things to my students in a way that they can understand. I love this challenge because it forces me to distill concepts and events to their core and help my students find meaning in the world around them.  While I usually revel in this challenge, right now I feel completely lost.

I have no idea how to explain the shooting in Tucson, Arizona resulting in wounding of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords along with thirteen others and the death of six others including a 9-year-old girl who was born on September 11, 2001.

I know that we want to find out who’s to blame. The thing is though, that knowing isn’t going to change what happened. And the most important thing I learned from my first boss was that in a time of crisis the single most important thing is to figure out how to move forward and only when there is a clear path forward through a tragedy should be look back and begin to examine who should be held responsible.

Right now, pointing fingers and placing blame is not going to help us move forward. All we can do is make sure that we are doing the best we can to be the best people that we can be in our jobs, in our communities and in our personal lives.

Is this a turning point that will steer us away from the negative political rhetoric that I’ve complained about that is coming from all political sides? I don’t know, but I hope so. What I do is that if we get hung up on pointing fingers nothing will change. We cannot let that happen.

So what do I say when one of my students ask me about what happened? Well, I guess all I can be honest about how I feel and hopefully that's enough:
There's a feeling I've experienced only a couple times in my life. I first felt it when my maternal grandfather died, I felt it again after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and I felt two more times when my paternal grandparents died. Last Saturday I felt it again reading about the shooting in Tucson, Arizona. It's a feeling of hollowness and confusion. It's like someone took away part of yourself that you didn't even know was there. At these times we're reminding that we are connected as human race and that the pain of even one person in a world filled with billions effects every single one of us.
I know you want to know why this happened and who's to blame but like most tragedies, we never will.  That's frustrating but like Elton John sang “The hows and whys aren't important now, all that matters is they came around and brightened up our lives.”
At these times in our lives we need to move forward and live our lives to their fullest, going out and doing what we planned to do, what we are born to do as if this tragedy never happened. Because that is what the people effected by this tragedy would want. I don’t know the reason why those people aren’t here anymore to share life with us but what I do know is that you are here, alive.  So live, really live.


  1. The day after the Columbine shootings, my music teacher was the *only* teacher at my school who talked to us about it. Mostly I remember that he just let us talk: he asked us how we were feeling and let us have a safe space to share our emotions. If nothing else, it honored the memory of those who'd been gone by saying that their lives were worth a few minutes of our time that could have been spent on other things. I'll never forget it.

  2. That's a great memory, thanks for sharing. My principal led the moment of silence this morning beautifully asking the students to reflect on how they can make the world more peaceful.

    You're right, it's definitely worth a few minutes of our time.