By now you probably know the name Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl shot in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. You know the name of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and perhaps even Mark Kelly, her astronaut husband. And of course, there's Jared Lee Loughner, the disturbed individual accused of perpetrating the whole thing.
But do you know who John Roll is? What about Gabe Zimmerman? Dorwan Stoddard? Phyllis Scheck? Dorothy Morris? Of the names of the Arizona shooting victims, only Green's has maintained its spot atop the news this week. And it can't simply be her relationship to famous people that's put her there.
We tell ourselves we are talking about her because we are parents, because she was a little girl, because it was unfair that her life was cut so short. But could it be that we talk about Christina because we are too afraid to talk about the other victims? Because in them we see ourselves?
Gabe Zimmerman was a staffer of Congresswoman Giffords and he was just 30 years old. Today, on my husband's birthday, he is already three years older than Gabe Zimmerman. And so I can't help but see my husband when I look at Zimmerman, a man in love (he was engaged to be married), a man who enjoyed sports.
Then there's John Roll, a federal judge, a man who was just 63 years old when he was shot and killed in that Safeway grocery store. In him I see my father, a man who is in his late 50s. Like Roll, he's a grandfather. Like Roll he's nearing retirement age but still a hard worker -- in fact Roll was said to have stopped by the Safeway on his day off to talk to Giffords about work (the Congresswoman helped line up funding for a courthouse).
Or what of Stoddard, the pensioner who had been widowed and met his childhood sweetheart who had likewise been widowed, who married her and stood on line with her at Safeway on Saturday? When the bullets rang out, Dorwan threw his weight on top of his dear Mavy, saving her life and sacrificing his own. Yes, he was in his mid-70s. But my grandfather is 90 and still kicking. He had plenty of life yet to live.
The same goes for Scheck and Morris, women past their prime to be sure, but still beautifully, wonderfully alive until Saturday when they were taken away by a crazy man with a gun. In all of them I see potential lost, and yet lives lived.
When a child is gone, we mourn their inability to live a life at all. When an adult dies, we mourn, but we thank whatever deity it is that we believe in that they had a chance to achieve adulthood, to follow at least some of their dreams. Once you leap over the hurdle into your 20s, you are no longer an innocent at the slaughter. You are a fully formed human being who makes your own decisions.
As I've heard said more times than I can count in various forms: "parents are not supposed to outlive their children." The death of the young is the subject of poems, of songs. It's romanticized. The death of adults merely is; even when it's tragic, it's seen as part of life.
What's more, adults are free to make their own choices, while children can still be ushered under the mantle of our protection. Keep the kids at home, we think, and they'll be safe. But what do we do with the adults?
I'm willing to wager we are focusing on Christina Taylor Green not merely because we take a protective role in regards to the nation's children but because talking about the adult lives lost would force an introspection we are not yet ready to handle with the tragedy this fresh. We aren't invincible, none of us. And sadly, six people in Arizona just taught us that the hard way.
Have you felt yourself focusing solely on this one victim?