TUCSON, Ariz. -- In honor of Martin Luther King Jr and his birthday holiday, hundreds of people "marched" two miles to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in a Walk for Peace, Jan. 16, for all that perished, the victims and "Gabby."
A banner with participants signatures and heartfelt messages preceded the 400-plus people in the walk, and was left at Giffords' office along with all the balloons and stuffed animals already placed at the growing vigil.
Capturing the mood of the day and Tucson a week after the shootings, three ladies held signs that read "FREE HUGS," and people were not shy to walk up to the ladies, and get a hug from each one of them. The atmosphere was upbeat as people spoke to strangers and smiled.
Before the procession left the park to head to the congresswoman's office, a prayer was said and everyone bowed their heads and silently prayed.
The trek, participants said, was not only for those that perished and the other victims but also for each person there to begin to heal and demonstrate how Tucson was together in this ordeal.
On a sad note, Dorwan Stoddard was laid to rest on the same day. He had shielded his wife from Jared Lee Loughner's bullets, and was shot to death at the Safeway store. His daughter-in-law said he died showing his love for his wife and there was no better way for him to go. Mr. Stoddard represented the good that is Tucson and will be missed.
At another weekend memorial, a moment of silence was observed at University Medical Center here one week after to the minute of the time of the shooting.
The one surgeon who basically saved Gabby's life was Dr. Peter Rhee, a 24-year Naval military surgeon and current chief of trauma at University Medical Center. Rhee's experience in dealing with battlefield casualties and serving in forward area medical units, with very little gear, personnel and resources is credited as being Gabby's saving grace. Serving in two deployments, Rhee was in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tucson has gone from the angered, dazed, weeping days to comforting total strangers with an embrace or simple words of encouragement. Tucson has been through a lot this past year, with SB1070 and HB2281 (the ban on Ethnic Studies) but for the time being, politics have been put aside and people are looking at each other as simple human beings.
Photo: (Courtesy of Alexander Monarrez Maldonado/The Latino Doctrine)