Tucson Community Still in Shock After Shooting

BY Lauren Knapp  January 11, 2011 at 6:20 PM EDT

Giffords Vigil
(Mark Duggan, Arizona Public Media)

Much of the media’s attention has been focused on the community of Tucson, Ariz., since a gunman opened fired on a crowd gathered to see U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on Saturday.

Christopher Conover was one of the first reporters on the scene and has been covering the tragic event and community response for Arizona Public Media.

We spoke with Conover Tuesday about how the Tucson community has been reacting to the shooting.

What has the reaction to the shooting been like amongst the Tucson community?

Christopher Conover:
The Tucson community immediately was in shock, and in many ways I think still is, even though we are days out from the shooting. Pima County is about one million people, Tucson is the biggest city in the county, so it’s not a small town, but it does have a small town feel to it at times and I think that’s what’s led to a lot of the shock. There have been vigils and memorials every night. There is a growing memorial in front of the hospital. A lot of tears have been shed by people who don’t necessarily personally know any of the 20 victims but still feel some connection to them.

You mentioned people have been holding vigils – what are the plans for memorials in the coming days?

Conover:
In the coming days we’re beginning to have funerals. The funeral for Christina Green, the 9 year-old who was killed, is at the end of this week. The funeral for federal Judge [John] Roll, who was killed, is at the end of this week. Tomorrow night is what can best be described as a community memorial. It will be held in the basketball arena at the University of Arizona. And the featured speaker there will be President Obama. He is coming in for that. There are masses at churches. There’s a large community mass at one of the Catholic churches tonight. There have been other church services throughout the community. And then there have been vigils in front of the Congresswoman’s office at times. It’s nothing really formal, but people just gather to leave some cards, some flowers, some balloons and say a few things. And that’s been going on all over town since Saturday.

**You mentioned the president will be in Tucson Wednesday

. How do you anticipate this will affect the community? How do you expect people to be react to that?**

Conover:
The community is very appreciative that the President of the United States is flying, basically all the way across the country, to talk to the community and to remember those who were killed and lend some comfort to the families of those who survived and those who did not.

You were one of the first reporters on the scene, what was that experience like when you first got there?

Conover:
It was chaotic. When I first got there, the helicopters bearing Congresswoman Giffords and some of the other victims were just lifting off, there were three helicopters, and it was still a very chaotic scene. We were able to get very close to where the actual shooting took place. There was only one police line up. Over time that police line was extended further and further back and they moved the media further and further back. But even as we were further away, we watched police going car to car with automatic weapons or assault rifles checking vehicles.

They still didn’t know if there was a second person involved so they went through and checked every vehicle in the parking lot – two police officers at each vehicle just going down the line, weapons drawn, checking to see if doors were unlocked, trunks unlocked. And then the bomb dogs came through and did the same thing.

So as you’re standing there and watching all this and doing your job as a reporter, you also have this thought in the back of your mind, “Gee, I’m standing awfully close to that car they’re checking, I hope they don’t find something in it.” But it was a very chaotic scene initially, with 20 people being shot. Ambulances and rescue squads all over the place. Many different agencies [were] involved, not just the fire department that handles that area of town but multiple fire departments, multiple police agencies, the FBI, we even saw border patrol trucks at one point. So there were plenty of official vehicles around all working together.

In Washington, much of the talk has been focused on Rep. Giffords, and I’m wondering, is there more attention being paid to the 19 other victims in the media in Arizona?

Conover:
The media here certainly has paid a lot of attention to Rep. Giffords. A lot of attention has also been paid to Judge Roll and Christina Green, the 9-year-old. There has been less attention paid to many of the other victims because we simply do not know who they are. Because of Federal HIPAA laws hospitals are not releasing their names. Some of the names are coming out. This morning, on the medical update that we get everyday on the Congresswoman, some family members of some of the surviving and not surviving victims came and spoke and updated the media on how their family [member] is doing, and how their family as a whole is coping. But there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the other victims simply because we don’t know who all of them are.

Learn more about some of the victims of Saturday’s shooting.