Editor: Shirley Robinson Sprinkles, a lifelong friend of Ernie McCray, wrote to us sharing her thoughts on the events that took place this last week in her town of Tuscon, and we wanted to share them with you. Thank you Shirley.
“What’s his name?” –yes, that’s the question all of the network reporters were asking as they frantically scampered about, jumping over people with their microphones and cameras—each trying to be “first” with the news reports they would file about the horrific massacre they were covering in Tucson, Arizona—my hometown. For these sophisticated, largely East Coast, folks, names like Hernandez, Rhee, Grijalva, and Morales would need to be spell-checked to get right before submitting copy on the biggest story of this decade; the attempted assassination of a United States Congresswoman, and cold-blooded murder of six others—including a nine-year-old child.
As painful as it was to watch the unfolding of such a monumental, senseless tragedy, I couldn’t help noting who came up as the heroes and heroines of the day. A Mexican intern to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who plugged her head wound with his hand and held her close in the position that saved her life, several Mexican good Samaritans who overcame their own fears in order to attend to wounded victims of the shooting rampage, and yes, a Chinese doctor named, Peter Rhee, who is credited with organizing the bloody chaos at University Medical Center so proficiently that many lives of the wounded were saved, including Mrs. Gifford’s, and seeing to it that professional services were rendered at the highest levels of efficiency.
Few people in mainstream America are aware, as I am, because I grew up there, of the irony of these names co-mingling in the history being made today. It is not commonly known that Tucson hosts a large contingency of Chinese as well as Hispanic citizens—an outcome of days gone by when clusters of this cultural group were brought to Arizona to build the railway system that traverses the state and connects Arizona with the rest of the country. These industrious, entrepreneurial-minded people remained there and opened businesses like grocery stores, dry cleaners, and restaurants, and bought up much of the land on which many of Tucson’s existing commercial, industrial and residential properties were erected. I was not at all surprised to see a Chinese Chief of Trauma and Emergency Operations at the University of Arizona’s world-class hospital and medical center, although I’m sure it’s a job he could not have had when I lived there, even if he deserved it.
As to the courageous Hispanic heroes of the sad event, my mind would not behave as it conjured up images of a scenario wherein someone would have shouted:
”Wait! Don’t touch her! What is your legal status? Are you a documented U.S. citizen, or an illegal alien? We have to know this before you can be trusted to help these true-blue American people!”
If Daniel Hernandez had answered in the negative, admitting that his citizenship was yet to be determined, we would be contemplating a whole different conclusion than the hopeful one we now entertain. I don’t know whether or not this brave young man, who used his nursing training and personal fortitude to preserve the life of Gabby Giffords until EMS arrived, is a first, second or third generation Mexican. I could care less whether or not he qualifies for “temporay immunity” if he is not already a natural-born citizen. All I know is that I sure as hell wish we had more people like him in this country!
Jared Loughner, by all accounts, is a United States citizen by birth and education-the type we say we want here. But, in my opinion, he was failed by someone, somewhere—perhaps everywhere. I doubt that Daniel Hernandez was brought up as privileged as Loughner, socially and economically, I know I wasn’t. In Arizona, the stigma of race is still alive and well after all these years. But, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Mr. Hernandez is a decent human being who learned somewhere to earn his way in the world by saving lives; not by taking them. He is a contributor, not a destroyer. I hope that those who have harbored and spewed the deep animosity dispatched in broadcast and print news media against this segment of our society these days will step back and reflect on what the world has just witnessed.