Over the last few months , I wrote a couple of articles about a whirlwind trip I took to Tucson, my hometown, wherein I had the honor of addressing the University of Arizona’s Class of ’60 as we celebrated or 50th reunion as graduates.
On the same trip the university’s black alumni (UABA) honored me as an “Outstanding Achiever” in a ceremony that was held at my old elementary and junior high school, a school for black kids when I was growing up.
It was a trip of a lifetime. In my address to my classmates I highlighted how far the university and the city had come when it comes to embracing diversity of all kinds: racial, sexual identities, points of view. That there’s such a thing as a thriving organization of black alumni speaks volumes to how far the university has come.
I’ve seen the leadership of the university gradually change over the years bringing my alma mater to where it is today: a great institution of higher learning, a beacon for the kind of change our society must undergo if we’re to continue boasting of being a great society, a great country.
And today the university is lead by a man, Robert N. Shelton, who embodies all the characteristics of the kind of leadership a university and a community and a state needs in our troubled times.
Watching him set the tone for the memorial service for victims (which we all are) of the horrible event that took place one Saturday in Tucson, warmed my heart, and made me feel that things can change for the better in our world.
I absolutely appreciate all that he’s doing, in this moment in time, to help the healing process and I would like to share a message he sent out to the University of Arizona community under the subject: Support for Our Community.
The past few days have been both heart-wrenching and remarkable. We moved from shock at Saturday’s shootings, to anguish over the loss of life, to gratitude that many of those injured survived and that others were unharmed, to overwhelming pride in the talents and bravery of first responders, healthcare professionals, and quick-thinking citizens who stepped up to ensure the safety and survival of others.
So where do we go from here?
Last night we held a ceremony that was designed to begin a healing process for our community. It afforded a chance for all of us in the Tucson region to come together and renew our sense of hope, and purpose, and pride in this wonderful place we live. It was cathartic for many to have a chance to cheer the heroes of that tragic day, and share a commitment to reach out to our friends and neighbors with a greater sense of love.
But memorial services will soon conclude, community gatherings will cease, the injured will recover, and news media from around the world will move to another story.
What are we to do next?
Perhaps our most important task is to give ourselves and others the opportunity to grieve.
Grief and trauma manifest themselves in many ways, and understanding our reactions to tragic events is a key first step in the healing process. Being sad, disoriented, unable to concentrate, less productive, or prone to sudden emotional changes is normal and expected. It will take time for life to feel normal again.
Some people have expressed confusion and even embarrassment about the degree of their grief or anxiety given that they were not directly connected to the individuals who were injured. This, too, is normal. Our hearts ache for the friends and families of those harmed and we are mourning the loss of our own sense of safety and security. It is completely reasonable for each of us to feel affected.
In the weeks and days ahead I encourage you to take special care of yourself. This is the time to focus on eating well, getting rest, exercising, engaging in activities that bring you joy, and connecting with others. You may find it helpful to review newly posted advice that is available on the UA Life & Work Connections website .
I ask you to look after one another as well. Accept that colleagues and students may have trouble focusing or may be distracted. Reach out to those who appear withdrawn, distraught or unusually irritable. Remind students about counseling resources are available to them through Counseling and Psychological Services and refer faculty and staff to UA Life & Work Connections .
It is important for us to recognize that it will take time for an entire community to recover and we must acknowledge that life as we know it has been forever changed. It is important, too, to recognize that we are an extraordinary community filled with compassionate people. Tucson’s essential soul has been revealed and that should offer us all a sense of hope.
My Words: Amen! Bear! Down! Arizona! Take heed, world!