An outsider’s view inside Tucson

January 17, 2011

People and law enforcement personnel stand at a parking lot where U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot along with others at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona January 8, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Arriving at the scene of the Tucson shooting, I really didn’t know what to expect. There is always a nervous energy driven by adrenalin. You know you have to be there. You know it’s going to be bad, but you know you have to be there. Someone has to tell the story. Someone has to show it to the rest of the world.

The first couple of days were spent in shock. The whole community was in shock. How could this happen here? Details that will later emerge are largely hidden at this point. The why and the how – that’s for later stories. Right now, the pressing issue is to document this. Right now is the time to photograph what the community and its people are going through. No time to think, no time to react, I need to do my job and show this for what it is right now. It’s still chaos. You try to make order from the chaos. Later the images will have context. Later you can place them into a framework, but for the moment it’s all reaction. Cover that one piece, then move on. Those fragments will all make sense later on, but for now just keep moving.

Mourners take part in a prayer vigil in response to Saturday's shooting of U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) among others at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona January 9, 2011.   REUTERS/Eric Thayer

I’m an outsider, but the community has embraced their responsibility in the wake of the tragedy. There was a reaction, and then they came together. The people had opened themselves up. They let me in and let me photograph them during a horrible time in their city’s history. I didn’t experience any negativity in covering anything related to the shooting. In fact, the only time I felt unwanted was when I photographed the gun show. They did not want me there. They did not want photos made.

It’s to be expected, as this is a sensitive time here.

I was an outsider coming in to cover this tragedy, but having been there from nearly the beginning, I felt like I was a part of this. I saw it from every side while very close to the actual event. I was there fast enough to still see people involved in the shooting at the scene. I was there for the first vigils, for the first candles and pictures. I was there and saw the memorials grow. I was there before much of the media arrived, and I was there after most of them left. I’m not a resident of this place, but somehow I feel a connection to the event; an empathy for the people who were not only involved or personally affected, but for the community as well.

People attend a candlelight vigil at the Tucson University Medical Center after U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in Tucson, Arizona January 8, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Women embrace during a candlelight vigil at the Tucson University Medical Center after U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in Tucson, Arizona January 8, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

There are so many people who wanted to show their support. Whether it was the candlelight vigil the night after the shooting, where there weren’t enough chairs for all who attended, or the peace march for the victims ending at Giffords’ office.

People take part in a march for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona January 16, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

The community has come together in support of one another. People have been very open, and signs of support for the victims are everywhere. The event, despite the gravity and scope of the tragedy, has really brought together a community. It’s hard to show it all in pictures – random strangers and their conversations. It’s difficult to translate a feeling of hope into images. It was such a senseless tragedy, and yet a community responded in a positive way. They have rallied around their fallen, and are tending to their wounded.

Nine-year-old Dante Mitchell, classmate of nine-year-old Christina Green, holds a stuffed bear he brought to her funeral in Tucson, Arizona January 13, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Mary Kool holds a single red rose outside the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church where the funeral of U.S. District Judge John Roll was to take place in Tucson, Arizona January 14, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Great post Eric.

Posted by CO0LHand | Report as abusive