By William J. Dagendesh
The dark, overcast skies hovering above Pueblo have added to the dismal atmosphere surrounding the nation following the Saturday, Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.
On that day Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her staff and constituents met outside a supermarket in Tucson to exercise their right to free speech. Jared Loughner, 22, opened fire on Giffords and the crowd killing six people and injuring three others.
The victims represent what is best in Americans, President Barack Obama said in a memorial service Wednesday at the University of Arkansas.
“There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in our hearts. But know this; the hopes of a nation are here tonight,” Obama said. “We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in their grief. We add our faith to yours, and that representative Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.”
Robert Shelton, president of UA, said the number of people attending the service speaks volumes of the support of our nation. It is estimated that more than 26,000 people attended the service.
“I think you can see… by the many dignitaries and elected officials in the audience how deeply our country was affected by the terrible events,” Shelton said. “We are obviously saddened by the circumstances that have brought President and Mrs. Obama to Tucson. But we are comforted by their compassion and inspired by their determination to reach out and help.”
In his speech, Obama said he stands by and grieves with Americans during this time of sorrow.
“I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow,” Obama said.
The president recognized the six people who were killed in the shooting. They are Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Gabe Zimmerman and Christina Taylor Green. The deaths of these people have wounded the nation, Obama said,
“Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing,” Obama said. “And yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness. Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congress woman many of them went to see on Saturday.”
Obama visited with Giffords earlier that day, he said, and that some of her friends were at her bedside when the congress woman opened her eyes for the first time since the shooting. Giffords husband, Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelley, received a standing ovation from the audience.
“Gabby knows we are here, she knows we love her and she knows we are rooting for her,” Obama said as handclaps and cheers filled the arena.
Obama also recognized and thanked the people who tended to Gifford’s wounds, and assisted with Loughner’s apprehension and arrest.
“These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle,” Obama said. “It reminds us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens… just waiting to be thumped, as it was on Saturday morning.”