In Tucson, Arizona, Thursday, family and friends of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green attended her funeral and said their last goodbye to the youngest victim of Saturday’s tragic shooting incident that left a total of six people dead.
Bagpipers played as pallbearers carried the casket containing the body of Christina Green out of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic church in north Tucson, not far from the site of the deadly shooting. Flying in the breeze outside the church was a large flag removed from the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Christina Green was born on that day.
Of the close to 2,000 people who attended the funeral, nearly a quarter were children, including some of the third graders classmates and friends. Hundreds of ordinary citizens lined the roads near the church in a show of support for the Green family and to express their sorrow over the shooting that has so shaken this community.
In the coming days, the other five people who died in the shooting, including federal judge John Roll will be laid to rest. Several of the people wounded in the attack remain at the University of Arizona Medical Center, including U.S. Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a bullet through the left side of her brain.
The hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael LeMole says Giffords continues to respond to commands, raising her hands or legs when asked to do so, and that she is also opening her eyes, although not completely.
“Think about it, when you first wake up in the morning and you are all bleary eyed and your eyes are not focusing, then the eyes sort of come together and start to focus,” he said. “We are just starting to see those signs and her trying to track her gaze to wherever she wants to look. That is very, very encouraging and, again, reflects on a level of alertness.”
Police believe Giffords was the main target of the attack carried out allegedly by 22-year-old Jared Loughner. He is being held on on federal charges, including the murder of a federal judge and the attempted murder of a member of Congress and could face the death penalty.
People who knew the alleged killer have described him as unstable, paranoid and anti-social. He had had encounters with local authorities and was thrown out of a local college because of his erratic behavior. But he had no criminal record or official record of mental illness that would have prevented him from buying the 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol and large ammunition magazines that he obtained at a local store in November.
The shooting has raised debate over Arizona’s lax gun laws as well as the problem of how to provide help to mentally ill people before they harm themselves or others. Because of the financial crisis facing Arizona and many other states, funds for mental health services have been cut.