A place in their hearts

Mail - uplifting, poignant, sincere - pours in from world over for Christina-Taylor's family
2011-02-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-30T17:33:41Z A place in their heartsStephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 06, 2011 12:00 am  • 

A child drew a picture, on pink paper, of a young girl standing under a rainbow and jumping in a rain puddle.

An astronomer sent the name and location of a star - Sirius - that's nine light-years away. It's the brightest star in the sky.

A group of women in Pennsylvania sent angels they crocheted.

Life for many Tucsonans has begun slowly returning to normal since the shock of the Jan. 8 shootings. But mail for the family of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the massacre, continues to pour in from around the world.

Schoolchildren, parents who have lost children and children who have lost siblings are among those reaching out.

Twelve volunteers spent Wednesday evening sorting through about 1,000 pieces. And the Green family has received just as many condolences at their home, and more still via e-mail. Their home mail is now forwarded to a post office box to handle all the letters and gifts.

"Everyone is finding their own way of showing love and support for the Greens," said Evan Mendelson, vice president of donor relations and program services at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, which is administering a memorial fund the Green family set up in their daughter's memory.

The Community Foundation isn't yet saying how much money has been raised. Mendelson said donations from more than 1,300 contributors have been collected to date. Donations have come from 47 states and 10 countries as far-flung as Brazil and the Netherlands. The Greens say they will designate the money toward a cause that will ensure Christina-Taylor's legacy for children in the community.

Often, people send their memorial fund donations inside cards of comfort for Christina-Taylor's family - parents John and Roxanna and 11-year-old brother, Dallas. The family deeply appreciates the cards and letters, along with the community's support, Roxanna Green said.

Even people sorting the letters find solace in the practice.

"It's a healing process for the people writing and for those of us reading, just to see how many people she's touched," said Randi Lyn Crist, 22, a Green family friend and University of Arizona senior. Crist brought along some of her sorority sisters to help.

"Letters from kids, especially, are the ones that stay with me. Some of them seemed confused with the situation. But their messages are simple and heartfelt. They write things like, 'This makes me sad.' "

A few children have mailed what appears to be their lunch money - one boy included three crumpled dollar bills with a letter to the family. One boy wrote a card to young Dallas, saying he'd lost his sister, too. Another boy said he used to ride the school bus with Christina-Taylor. He sent $1.

A 7-year-old girl wrote to say she'd saved up her tooth fairy money and her allowance to buy and create the gift she sent - a Build-A-Bear wearing a pink ballet dress, with pink ribbons around the ears. The bear has a beating heart, which the girl said she kissed before the bear was stitched up. The Greens could squeeze the bear and listen to the heart when they feel sad, the little girl wrote.

Other children have sent homemade tile mosaics, pictures and crosses, as the family is Roman Catholic.

One cross the family found particularly poignant was made by Tucson artists Veronica and Gabriel Sandoval of hand-embossed metal, Green family friend Katy Martin said. It features an angel dressed in red, white and blue - as a 9/11/01 baby, Christina-Taylor was deeply patriotic - along with a large red heart with her name in it, two white doves and a baseball at the bottom.

The Green family has strong baseball ties, and many people tied to the sport have sent flowers and letters. John played professional baseball for nine years and now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Christina-Taylor's grandfather, Dallas, was a major league pitcher and team manager, and Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Canyon Del Oro Little League team.

UA senior Brooke Blakely read about 50 letters Wednesday. One of her favorites contained a clipping of a newspaper cartoon from Omaha, Neb., that depicted a New York City firefighter greeting Christina-Taylor in heaven.

"I took a picture of that one and sent it to my dad," said Blakely, 21. "We put that in the special pile."

Singer Billy Joel wrote a letter and card to the family. The Greens selected Joel's "Lullabye" as their daughter's farewell song at her funeral.

Country singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw sent flowers.

Lesser-known artists have sent their own songs on homemade CDs. An oil painting of Christina-Taylor was among the items in last week's mail.

For people who want to give a gift or write a letter without a donation, the Community Foundation has a separate post office box to handle that mail. The mail is finding its way, even when senders don't have the post office box number. One letter came addressed to simply, "John and Roxanna Green, Tucson."

"The postmaster has been wonderful," Mendelson said.

Last week, a woman called Mendelson to say she was sending two pieces of concrete from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center Attacks. As a Sept. 11 baby, Christina-Taylor was featured in a book about babies born that day called "Faces of Hope."

"I get a lot of calls from artists. I've heard from singers, sculptors, glass artists," Mendelson said. "A lot of parents write, telling their own stories of grief. They often include books that have helped them, about losing a child."

Volunteers sort the mail into the different piles, and family friends pass them along to the Greens a few at a time.

In the "stuff" pile are items like stuffed animals, prayer shawls, rosaries and the crocheted angels.

The letters in "personal stories" are mostly from parents who have lost children.

"Personal connection" is mail from people with personal ties to the Green family. Christina-Taylor's teachers and principal at Mesa Verde Elementary School have sent letters filled with memories of a little girl her teachers described as caring, intelligent, giving and a leader beyond her years.

The "special" pile is mainly for cards and letters written by children, including one carefully printed in pencil from a little girl born on 9/11. On Wednesday it also included a letter from a mother in Connecticut whose son's sight was saved by a cornea transplant. Christina-Taylor was an organ donor and her parents have learned her corneas went to help save another child's sight.

Also in the "special" pile: children's drawings of baseball caps, mountains, blue skies, yellow suns and rain puddles - a reference to President Obama's Jan. 12 speech in Tucson.

"If there are rain puddles in heaven," Obama said, "Christina is jumping in them today."

On StarNet: Find past coverage of the Giffords shootings at azstarnet.com/news/local

"It's a healing process for the people writing and for those of us reading, just to see how many people she's touched."

Randi Lyn Crist, friend of the family of Christina-Taylor Green, helping to sort huge volumes of mail

The Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund Donations

• Checks made out to Community Foundation for Southern Arizona with a note on the memo line, "In Memory of Christina-Taylor Green" may be mailed to:

Community Foundation for Southern Arizona

ATTN: Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund

2250 E. Broadway

Tucson, AZ 85719-6014

• Donations may be made online at www.cfsoaz.org

• Cards and notes for the family of Christina-Taylor Green may be mailed to:

Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund

P.O. Box 65000

Tucson, AZ 85728-5000

Giffords' office

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has always been a hard-core writer of thank-you notes - she's been adamant about them for her entire political career, dating to her time in the Arizona Legislature.

So her staff, doing what they know their boss would expect, plans to answer each and every one of the condolences and get-well wishes they've received since the Democratic congresswoman was critically injured in the Jan. 8 shooting. Six people, including Giffords' staffer Gabe Zimmerman, were killed. Giffords and 12 others were injured.

So far, the crush of cards, letters, e-mails, handwritten notes and phone calls adds up to more than 18,000.

"And that does not include items left at the memorials, which included hundred of balloons, tiles, votive candles," Giffords' spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.

Helping with the Giffords team's responses are 13 office interns, including Daniel Hernandez Jr. , whose heroics during the tragedy have been credited with helping to save Giffords' life. Hernandez returned to work Thursday.

In addition to the interns and the Tucson office's eight regular staff members, plus two in Sierra Vista, Giffords' Tucson office is getting help from three members of the congresswoman's Washington, D.C., staff.

The local office has always had a thank-you note tracking system maintained by the office manager.

"The power of the thank- you note - we live it, breathe it," Karamargin said. "Everyone who has sent something will get an acknowledgement. They will all get something."

In addition to thank-yous, the Giffords office is conducting daily business working with constituents. And ever since Jan. 8, the staff has also been fielding press calls from around the world. In one day soon after the shootings, they received 900.

"Yes, we are tired, but we don't have time to think about it all that much," Karamargin said.

The outpouring of support from the public is pulling Giffords' staff through their fatigue and sadness, he said.

"I really can't capture for everyone how inspiring these messages are that we're receiving," Karamargin said. "Just to read them is to open a window to such sincerity and caring, it's unbelievable. We keep calling this a tragedy, but the community response is a triumph of what type of town we live in. That has been an unending source of pride, really, for everyone in this office.

"The message of hope and togetherness has really been uplifting."

Buy a purple bracelet for $3

University of Arizona student Randi Lyn Crist, a friend of the Green family's, is selling purple "Christina-Taylor Green" bracelets on campus for $3. The bracelets were donated by a local business that wants to remain anonymous. Crist is donating all the money she raises to the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund. Pink and purple were Christina-Taylor's favorite colors, Crist said.

She's sold nearly 1,000, including one to every member of the UA men's basketball team.

"It's very moving to see so many students wearing purple bracelets on campus," Crist said.

In addition to Christina-Taylor's name, the bracelets have one word on them.

"It says 'Hope,' " Crist said, moving the rubber bracelet around her wrist. "That's because she was a face-of-hope baby," born on Sept. 11, 2001.

To get one, e-mail Crist at hope.bracelet.tucson@gmail.com

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at (520) 573-4134 or sinnes@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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