One heinous act in Tucson Saturday by a lone gunman left six people dead and more than a dozen injured. For five days the nation gasped in horror as it tried to search for answers.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama traveled across the country to attend a memorial ceremony, held at the University of Arizona, to speak with emotion and compassion of Saturday's tragic shootings. President Obama announced to the cheering arena that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who had been shot through the left side of her brain, had opened her eyes for the first time since her surgery. He also recognized the heroes of the incident, the families of the victims and focused the closing portion of his speech on nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who had been killed in the assault. Recently elected to her school's student council, Christina had gone to the scene to meet her Congresswoman.
Earlier in the day, and four thousand miles away, Alaska's former governor, Sarah Palin, broke her silence on the shootings by releasing a nearly eight minute heartfelt and sincere video statement on Facebook. In the immediate wake of the shootings, Governor Palin had been criticized for the tone of her campaigning, especially by the left. In particular, for posting on her website a map that displayed crosshairs over target districts, including Democrat Representative Giffords' Arizona district.
Here are excerpts from their speeches:
President Obama: "I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow. There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through."
Governor Palin: "Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic's core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It's inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.
President Obama: "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle. The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better."
Governor Palin: "Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event."
President Obama: "We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us."
Governor Palin: "If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."
President Obama: "If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina (Taylor Green) is jumping in them today. And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit."
Governor Palin: "America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country."
Representative Gabrielle Giffords continues her slow but remarkable recovery. She faces a difficult and uncertain journey. So do all Americans.