TUCSON, Ariz. – The Tucson community awaited President Obama’s visit with hope of a positive message that would help us cope with what is now Tucson’s darkest moment in the city’s history.
Tucsonans were lining up the night before to attend the “Together We Thrive, Tucson and America” community memorial at the University of Arizona’s McKale Center. Four hours before President Obama was to give his speech, two lines about a half mile long each and continually growing had formed in two different directions from the entrance to McKale Center.
People of all ages, colors and religions stood in line. Some university students passed the time playing games on the sidewalk. Vendors sold lemonade and soft drinks, while a couple of pizza delivery men were selling fresh pizzas to the crowd as they waited. Blue “Together We Thrive, Tucson and America” T-shirts were handed out for free to anyone who wanted one and as the doors opened at McKale Center, the T-shirts were thrown into the crowd for any lucky person who happened to catch one.
As the crowd moved forward, everyone was patient and courteous with each other as the Tucson caring spirit was now in full view of the world for everyone to see. From what was a sad and solemn gathering of people earlier in the week at the vigils, were now upbeat, and people were smiling for probably the first time since Saturday.
Over 13,000 people were seated inside McKale Center, while another 13,000 were seated outside at the nearby Arizona football stadium where President Obama’s speech was heard over the huge scoreboard. It didn’t matter if people were inside or outside, they just wanted to be close and hear the words of our nation’s leader.
As President Obama and First Lady Michelle entered the arena, a thunderous applause erupted and people yelled, “We love you, Obama!” which helped change the mood for the better for the people of Tucson, the state of Arizona and the rest of the country.
The best emotional moment was when President Obama announced to everyone that Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time and the arena broke into a deafening standing ovation as people now had hope for Gabby’s survival and that their hopes and prayers were appearing as a reality.
Tucson needed a grandfather, father, uncle, older brother, someone to tell us that we were going to be alright and on this night. That man came in the form of President Obama who told us that what happened was tragic, but that together we are gonna be alright.
Photo: Outside the University of Arizona’s McKale Center in Tucson, people wait in line to attend the public memorial for the victims of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and to hear the president’s eulogy. (Alexander Maldonado/The Latino Doctrine)