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As 2020 ends, Americans crave hope and inspiration in our communities. And as 2021 begins, we seek to find resiliency and fortitude in ourselves.
It is a good time to learn from people who have faced hardship, who have persevered in spite of daunting odds and excruciating losses.
So on Jan. 7, USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star held an event marking the 10th anniversary of the shooting that killed six and injured 13, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at a supermarket north of Tucson, Ariz., during a constituent meeting.
“The anniversary of the Tucson shooting is painful for myself and the community I’ve always called home,” Giffords, co-founder of Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, wrote in a statement. “But I’ve never seen this as a day for looking back. I see it as a way to remember why we move forward.”
“I’m honored to be a part of the Storytellers experience to share the challenges of recovery and why I’m determined to keep taking one step at a time toward making the world a better place.”
This live event was a celebration of the resiliency within the survivors and the community in the days, weeks and years after. The event was produced by the Storytellers Project, part of the USA TODAY Network. Through compelling stories, conversations and poetry, the hour-long online event honored the losses, while sharing insights and lessons relevant to all Americans today.
The event was held at 3 p.m. PT / 6 p.m. ET. Thursday, Jan. 7, and can be viewed now at https://youtu.be/MsW3o3ExmYk
The online event featured:
Remarks from former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
A conversation between Giffords, Fabiane Hirsch of the Aphasia Center of Tucson and Arizona Republic journalist Karina Bland about courage in the face of so much unknown, and progress that is not guaranteed.
A conversation between Dr. Randall Friese, who was working in the hospital’s emergency room and treated victims that day, now a state representative for Southern Arizona, and Former Arizona Daily Star journalist Stephanie Innes, who is now at the Arizona Republic.
A personal story from survivor and former Giffords’ intern Daniel Hernandez, who was at Giffords’ side that day, now a state representative for Southern Arizona.
A personal story from survivors Mary Reed and daughter Emma McMahon, who were targeted by the shooter.
Patricia Maisch will be in conversation with Sarah Garrecht Gassen,
Opinion Editor at the Arizona Daily Star. Maisch will talk about pouring herself into advocacy as a means of recovery. On that day in 2011, she wrestled ammunition away from the shooter and stopped him from reloading his gun.
A poem and conversation from Arizona poet laureate Alberto Rios, who is also the director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.
Hernandez was a young intern when he leapt into action to help Giffords immediately after she was shot. He will tell a story about how the shooting changed him, helping him become a man who relied on his friends more in adulthood than he had in adolescence.
When he was younger, he felt pressure to handle everything on his own. But now, as a state representative, he collaborates to write legislation and get it passed.
“Looking back 10 years is not something I [do] very often, and this is a great opportunity to stop, pause and think on things. It's really impacted the work I do now, like both the job I have and how I do it.”
Just as American doctors faced unprecedented pressures and losses amid the pandemic, while the country watched, Friese was at the center of this crisis in his hospital 10 years ago. The conversation with him focused on how Friese managed treating those involved in the shooting, and later what he learned about himself, his peers and about managing trauma.
Reed and McMahon, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, shared their personal story about the shooting and their recovery.
“I think that this story is particularly resonant during this time where we are experiencing trauma as a nation,” said McMahon, 27, of Baltimore, Maryland, whose mother covered her, taking three bullets, one of which is still lodged in Reed’s spine.
“I want to highlight that although a lot has changed in the last 10 years, some things haven't,” she said. “Many Americans still face gun violence every day, not because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time but because guns can too easily fall into the wrong hands. I hope that my story can help spark change.”
Rios read a poem that he wrote and was published in The Arizona Republic and shared on KJZZ to mark the fifth anniversary of the shooting.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect that the event had passed.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 10 Years Later: Conversations with Gabby Giffords and friends