Today marks the one year anniversary of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.
The Giffords shooting is one of those news events where I have a crystal clear memory of where I was when I heard the news and what exactly I was doing. I was at my high school’s Alumni Weekend. These weekends are heavily attended by the classes that graduated the two years before, with declining attendance thereafter as people become constrained by the larger tides of their lives. Usually the biggest pool of attendees comes from those with families in the area, or those who are attending school in the greater Los Angeles region.
I was in our school’s Commons, hiding out in the area where there was plentiful tables and chairs and internet access. There were two types of people there, a handful in all: social media junkies, like me, people for whom a couple of hours without access to Facebook and Twitter is an insurmountable burden; and type-A executive types for whom checking email and messages frequently is part of their job description. It was a pretty random group of people. There wasn’t anyone else from my class, the ties of the school the only thing we had in common.
And once I saw the story, I remember turning to the woman next to me, and asking her if she had heard the news about the congresswoman from Arizona. In that moment, it felt like one of those events for which I could invade another person’s solace. And I saw the look in her eye, like she had been thinking about the same things that I had. Thinking about whether this was the beginning of a long period in which people with guns could destabilize an entire nation, the beginning of the period in which law and order and the democratic vision would crumble under the power of a single madman. We had no knowledge of the shooter, only the knowledge that this was a time when things could go bad.