TOPICS > Politics

Tucson Reels From Shooting Tragedy, Plans Public Memorial Service

January 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Tucson's Mayor Robert Walkup gives details on how the city of Tucson is handling a gunman's attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and offers new details on plans for a public memorial service.

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Now, for more on the tragedy in Arizona, we turn to Mayor Bob Walkup.He joins us from Tucson.

Welcome, Mr. Mayor.

You are quoted at saying this weekend that this was a tragic lesson.

For whom?

ROBERT WALKUP, mayor of Tucson, Arizona:Well, it is a tragedy.It’s a tragedy for the city of Tucson clearly.

But it’s also a tragedy for the state of Arizona, and I think it’s a national tragedy that something like this has occurred.It is a time for learning and it’s a time for prayer.And it’s a time for understanding how something like this could really happen.

GWEN IFILL: As an elected official, as a lawmaker in Arizona, in Tucson, what is it that you think you could have, should have, should be done to avoid something like this?

ROBERT WALKUP: Well, I can tell you that since I got word of this on Saturday morning, and I went directly to the hospital, and then late in the evening participated in the candlelight vigil outside the hospital, I think it’s becoming very clear that the citizens of the city of Tucson believe that it’s time for us to get back to civility.

It’s time for us to start caring about each other.It’s time for us to be kind to each other.And we really need to start the process, so that all of us don’t have to fear an event like this that takes the lives of six people and injures another 14 people.That’s what I’m hearing from the citizens of Tucson.

GWEN IFILL: Are they asking you to do anything in particular, rather than pray and hope that things get better?Is there anything specific they’re asking of their elected leaders?

ROBERT WALKUP: Oh, absolutely.

And I think that they’re — not only what they’re asking, but we really need to take a look at the issue of security and how did something like this happen.And a lot of people are trying to figure that out.

But what I think that we need to do is, we really need to — as a society, we need to establish civility, a pledge that all of us are going to get back to how we treat each other and kindness.That does not mean that we can’t debate issues.

But we don’t have to target people.And we don’t have to deal with people in great anger.I — this is a time for caring.This is time for understanding.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Mayor, you’re making a link between people caring for each other and civil discourse and a person who allegedly is unstable, mentally unstable.

In fact, we hear tonight late reports that his family has built a barricade and won’t let people in the house, the FBI in the house.How do you make that link between those two kinds of behavior?

ROBERT WALKUP: Well, I think this is something that society has really got to work with, because mental illness is not just a local issue.This is a national issue, where we really need to put more emphasis in really understanding mental disease and mental issues.

This individual had, apparently, a considerable history that we should have begun to understand.And we really need to — we in the political jobs in support of the people that have elected us, we get that kind of e-mail all the time.And I think that it is time for us to say, you know, these are serious threats that we get.

We just cannot dismiss them as being somebody that cannot affect damage within a community.We need to take it seriously.

GWEN IFILL: You have been to the hospital.And you have met with Gabrielle Giffords’ husband and also relatives of other victims.How are they holding up?

ROBERT WALKUP: Well, we’re down to a total number of the — total number of 14 people that were injured that were treated.

We’re down to 10 people, and it looks as though another three have been released today.So I think we’re going to be starting tomorrow with about five to six people that are still — maybe seven — still remaining in the hospital.

They’re doing well.Gabby is doing as well as we could expect.Her husband and I had a chance yesterday to go to her bedside and just stand and kind of look at her and kind of talk to her, even though she couldn’t hear us, and just pray for her recovery, which we all believe is essential and a great possibility for her to come back and do the job that she was elected to do.

GWEN IFILL: You obviously worked closely with the congresswoman in her years in Congress.She’s been there for a few years.You have been mayor for a while.

What kind of a colleague was she?What kind of a congresswoman was she, is she?

ROBERT WALKUP: Well, I — yes, is she.

And it goes back to the time before she was even elected to the state legislature, back in the late 1990s, when she was a businessperson in the city of Tucson.I knew her then.But, interestingly enough, in the 2000-2003, she was a legislator and we worked on what we can do in Tucson to ensure that the University Medical Center had a very high-tech, functional, world-class trauma center.

She was involved in that process back in 2003.And we have one of the best.And, as I looked down at her, I was reminded of how we worked together to provide the trauma center that is saving her life.And it was — for me, it was a very moving event.

GWEN IFILL: Are there any plans so far for a public memorial or observance?

ROBERT WALKUP: Yes, there is.

As a matter of fact, we haven’t scheduled it yet, but we believe that we’re going to try to get everybody together, bring in all the people that would like to — in a public way to be able to say we’re praying for all of the victims, the people that have died.Funerals are scheduled for this week and next for all those people that just want to come together.

I believe that it’s going to be some time this Friday that we will have a public memorial service in the city of Tucson.For all of the people that want to come and say, boy, we’re sorry, and we’re praying for you, and we’re praying for gabby to recover and get back on the job.We love her dearly.

GWEN IFILL: Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, thank you so much for joining us.