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Guest opinion

Steve Alley: Trying to make sense of the senseless

I wrote this—about the tragic shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and so many others—on a plane somewhere over the Midwest as I was heading from Tucson to Indianapolis for a meeting on Monday.

I decided to post this today after reflecting on President Barack Obama's speech in Tucson last night.

The events of this week have hit so close to home that it is impossible for me to think about community without thinking of this tragic event.

I dedicate this to Judge John Roll and the other five people who lost their lives Saturday, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and the others who were wounded, and the rest of us, who have all been effected by this tragedy in one way or another.

  • A smile, a wave and a genuine hello.
  • Old friends meeting once again.
  • Then in an instant...
  • Lives ended, changed, incomplete.
  • Purposes unfulfilled, dreams broken.
  • Futures unpromised and unrealized.
  • When did we consciously turn away from peace?
  • What have I done to make that happen?
  • It all seems so unreal.
  • Innocence lost in that day-to-day place,
  • A smile, a wave, a genuine hello.
  • And then, chaos.
  • A week ago Sunday how nice it was to be there when it was so quiet.
  • Now I look at that place and see and feel only heartbreak.
  • When I go back there,
    what will I think?
  • One man changed it all.
  • Really only a boy, a troubled, lonely boy.
  • How does this happen?
  • How did we let him down?
  • How did the door open to so much fear, hatred and misunderstanding?
  • It's not just someone else this happened to,
    It happened to my neighbors,
  • in my neighborhood,
  • at my store,
  • to my friend.
  • How can we move forward?
  • Why did it all come to this?
  • The dirtiest campaign I've ever seen,
  • full of lies, hate and anger.
  • I don't know if it had anything to do with this,
  • this was the act of one person.
  • But if this doesn't force us to turn back from the abyss,
  • to think about what we say anonymously,
  • what we say publicly and privately,
  • then what will?
  • If this doesn't make us ask ourselves what we could do
    to make this world a better place,
  • then why did this happen?
  • A smile, a wave, a genuine hello.
  • It's who she is, it's who we need to be,
  • each one of us.
  • It's the small gestures that give us our humanity,
    that connect us to one another.
  • I'll get the door for you....
  • Excuse me....
  • I'm sorry....

A smile, a wave, a genuine hello.

  • We smile back,
  • we wave,
  • we say hello
  • we say thank you,
  • we forgive,
  • we respect,
  • we love,
    but we can not forget.

And I am still left to wonder....what are we supposed to learn from all of this?

Steve Alley is the former President/CEO of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. He is now a consultant with Ekstrom & Associates, a firm that works with community foundations and other philanthropic organizations.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

A man holds a sign saying 'We will heal' at Wednesday's memorial.