Triumph Over Tragedy

Jan 8, 2012 7:36 PM

Survivors agree: Tucson has risen above the Jan. 8 tragedy

TUCSON - As we look back on one of the darkest days in the history of Tucson it's also important to look forward. Many Arizonans are still searching for a ray of light that will shine out of the darkness of that day of violence.

One year later, there is plenty of light. It may be hard to believe, but this community has found several silver linings surrounding the cloud that settled over Tucson one year ago. As a community we are closer, possibly even better. Even the survivors can see the changes.

Pam Simon's road to recovery continues one year after a bullet pierced through her chest. That bullet is still lodged in her hip. "It's been a journey, it's been ups and downs." Simon said.

She's back at work, but still fighting some demons. Simon witnessed evil rise up that day, and she saw close friends go down. This survivor has every reason to be angry, every reason to harbor hate in her heart. But Pam Simon refuses to live that way. "I just find myself being very grateful everyday that I'm here and thankful for the people around me," Simon told News4 Tucson.

Like Simon, Ron Barber is a survivor of the January 8th shootings. He was shot in the face and the leg. Physically Barber has come a long way. Emotionally, the scars run deeper. "I'm managing the emotions and managing the anxiety that comes up but the images, I don't think will ever go away," Barber said.

Both Barber and Simon credit community love and support for helping them find a sense of peace after surviving such evil. "The response from our community has meant everything. I can speak on a personal basis that the compassion and kindness, the prayers and the goodwill, everything that our community poured out to us and to everyone else and is still going on, Barber said. Pam Simon agrees. "It's both an external and internal journey. An internal journey of healing and finding peace and finding center within yourself and the external journey of how are we going to use this time to make our community better and that might just mean being positive to your neighbor," said Simon.

That's the silver lining to a very dark cloud. These two survivors believe Tucson is actually a better place one year after the senseless shooting that could have ripped this town apart. "And I'm deeply, deeply grateful to the people that have surrounded me because it's the community, family, friends, neighbors that have made it possible for my healing," Simon said with a big smile on her face.

Barber believes more good can come, which is why he started the Fund for Civility, Respect, and Understanding, "to use that positive energy to create some good and change the positive change in our community."

Bill Carnegie also sees positive changes one year later. He's involved in several other programs born out of the Tucson shootings: The Tucson Together Fund, the Gabrielle Giffords Hunger Fund, and the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center. Carnegie says the assistance center will help many people in this community. "It's really a one stop shop for people to go where they can get the assistance or find out where they need to go to get the appropriate amount of assistance," Carnegie said.

Carnegie is the Chairman overseeing the Tucson Together Fund, which has already collected more than $500,000 to help the victims of January 8th and their families. "Our fund actually covers those things that the other survivor funds do not do, or victim's assistance funds do not do, whether they be federal or county. So it can be for counseling or travel of family members to come and help with support, or buying thank you cards, or pay postage on those to send out to those who've helped the family during their time of need," Carnegie told News4 Tucson.

Those are just a few examples of how Tucson has improved after the shootings. Since that dark day, many Tucsonans have been searching for a way to heal their wounds, and that is why we hear more Ben's Bells chiming around town. "After the horrible events people realized the real meaning of Ben's Bells," said Jeanette Mare. Ben's Bells was born out of grief. After Jeanette's son Ben, died she learned how important it is to be kind to one another.

That's why she started Ben's Bell's, a nonprofit organization that makes and hangs wind chimes around town. The bells serve as a musical reminder to help spread her message of kindness - a message that resonated with many after the shootings. "After January 8, we saw people flocking to our studio and spending time there and meeting family and friends there and talking about grief and pain and how do we move forward," said Mare.

Tucsonans are moving forward by leaning on friends, families, and neighbors. "Tucson is the kind of community that comes together and has come together and I believe will stay together," said Mare.

Carnegie agrees: "It's what we should do to come together as a community because it didn't represent Tucson that day, this horrible tragic event, and I think because of that though we're a better place today."

Ron Barber tells News4 that's the message he wants to deliver. "We're a wonderful community, let's keep doing what we've been doing and let's do what we can to make positive change for everyone in our community," he said.

A positive change rising up from a horrible tragedy - a silver lining around the darkest of clouds.

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