I learned of the shooting in Arizona yesterday during a break at a work retreat. When I got on facebook to check updates, I saw was a brief note that a Democratic Representative had been shot in the head at a constituent event and was in surgery. I remembered the night I was making dinner, months ago, when the news show I was listening to distractedly, described that Sarah Palin had posted a map of the U.S. on her website — with rifle crosshairs over the congressional districts with Democratic legislators that she believed needed to be “taken down.” I thought then, “I wonder what it will take to bring that map down off her site?” But I did nothing other than to inwardly condemn Sarah Palin’s idiocy.
The map was taken down about thirty minutes after the shooting yesterday. It took precisely, one shooter, six dead people, including a nine year old girl, and twelve others shot and wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
I spent last night and all day today haunted by this act of terrorism. I sang today at church, three songs that were about hope, connection, worship, praise, gratitude, joy. Rev D spoke of heeding our Divine Purpose, of not narrowing our vision for our life to a particular passion or path, but listening for Life to whisper, “Go there,” “Say, ‘yes’,” “Stay put,” “Take the leap,” and be as bold as Spirit or the Universe or God or whatever, allows us to be. I kept expecting my Rev to say something specific about the shootings, and left longing for a spiritual context for understanding this tragedy, longing for some recognition of the sacrifices unwillingly made to hatred.
A few moments ago, I came across an article about twenty year old Daniel Hernandez, and openly gay University of Arizona student. He was working a table at Rep. Giffords constituent event, on his fifth day of an internship with her office. As he was signing in visitors about 30 feet from the lawmaker, he heard gunshots and rushed toward her. Upon seeing that she was shot, he pulled her into his lap, help her upright, so that she wouldn’t choke on her own blood, and applied pressure to the entry wound. She took his hand, or he took hers, and at some point, squeezed it. Daniel didn’t leave the Representative, not for a second, not even when the paramedics arrived. While he was administering to her, he told bystanders how to help others who were shot nearby. He held Giffords hand as the paramedics prepped her for transport, as they put her on the gurney, as they rolled her to the ambulance, and climbed in with her. He stayed with her until she was taken into surgery at the hospital. Later, a physician remarked that Daniel’s actions probably saved Giffords life.
Four other heros discovered themselves as well. Patricia Maisch, took action when the shooter paused to reload his gun. She grabbed the bottom of the magazine, preventing the gun from being loaded. Two men — Roger Salzgeber and Bill Badger — then descended on the assailant and pulled him to the ground, where Joseph Zamudio joined to pin the shooter’s legs down.
These five people heeded divine purpose yesterday. When chaos broke out, they surrendered to the impulse to act in a life preserving way, ending a massacre clearly intended to last longer, and prolonging life that may have been otherwise lost.
In this dark chapter of American history, when violent rhetoric has become so commonplace that I, horrified as I was so many months ago by the crosshairs map, didn’t stop to write a letter of protest to Sarah Palin’s website, we have been shown heroism of the highest order. To Daniel, Patricia, Roger, Bill, and Jospeph, many thanks, and all of my admiration goes to you this day. You are an inspiration.
To all those touched directly by this shooting, I send prayers and blessings. To the rest of us, touched by the horror and the hope, may we always remember to act and speak peace to violence, no matter how small our platform, how ineloquent our words or seemingly small our actions.
May peace and peace be everywhere.