The shootings in Tucson of U.S. Rep. Gabriel Giffords and 19 others shocked a nation that had already been electrified by political debate. Even as the wire services first picked up the story, social media networks immediately lit up with notes of alarm, outrage, confusion, and concern. One thing was clear: Just like Oklahoma City, the powerful mix of politics, civic involvement, and violence infusing this tragedy would leave an indelible mark.
Neatly encapsulating these sub-currents, one story stood out. Daniel Hernandez, a 20-year old student at the University of Arizona, is an intern in Giffords’ office and an activist on issues of gender and sexuality. After the shooting, he held the Congresswoman to his lap and applied pressure to the gunshot wound, eventually riding with her to the hospital.
During the memorial event a few nights later, President Obama paused to reflect on the intern’s actions, and led the crowd of 14,000 to a standing ovation.
We live in a society defined by violence, but also by acts of altruism. Hernandez’s role has perhaps been the most discussed example, but there were many others as well. Together, these strands demonstrate the critical role volunteers and organizations play both as response to crisis and during recovery.
Here are just a few of the stories we’ve been following:
Local Nonprofits Step Up
- The American Red Cross – the nation’s largest volunteer organization and a VolunteerMatch partner – has been instrumental in providing support for the affected, including crisis line counseling for those in need. In addition, Mark Kelly (Giffords’ husband) requested that donations in her name go to support the local Southern Arizona chapter, which organized blood donations at a local mall.
- Kelly also requested donations be sent to Tucson’s Community Food Bank, which launched the Gabrielle Giffords Hunger Action Fund in response. (You can view the organization’s eight VolunteerMatch listings here.) Within about seven hours, more than $18,000 was received.
- As was widely reported, volunteer efforts converged at the funeral of Christina-Taylor Green, where an inflammatory Kansas church group was planning a political protest. While more than a thousand mourners paid their respects to the 9-year old victim, some 18 members of the volunteer Angel Project guarded organized more volunteers to guard the event from the out-of-state protesters, who didn’t end up showing.
- CPSA, a partnership of Tucson-region behavioral health experts that includes many skilled volunteers, organized several community-wide support lines and support groups.
Volunteering As Response
Outside of Tucson, several thought-provoking articles appeared that explored the idea of volunteering as a response:
- We were particularly taken by this article by Erica Shane Hamilton, a health and wellness advocate, which linked the moment with the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Michael McNulty, Giffords’ Campaign Chair, also shared thoughts on Giffords’ Facebook page suggesting followers be active on MLK Day of Service, which took place January 17.
- The HandsOn blog explored connections between the unity/reconciliation themes in President Obama’s January 12 speech at the Tucson memorial. As the author wrote, “The President reminded us that we are united in our hopes and dreams, in our mortality, and in our love for each other and our desire to make the American dream a reality for the generations that come after us.”
All these connections illustrate a strong urge to help both among Tucsonans and others. They remind us about the many ways Americans serve each other in times of need. And perhaps as well, they remind those of us who work to make the world a better place that our contributions do matter.
Share your reflections about the Tucson shootings with us – we’d love to hear your thoughts.