Student journalists from University High School's online newspaper, The Perspective, had a special link to the Jan. 8 shootings: Two of the victims graduated from their high school.
With permission from the school, the Star is rerunning two pieces from The Perspective.
The victims of the Jan. 8 shootings included two members of the UHS community - Gabe Zimmerman, class of '98, and Gabrielle Giffords, class of '88.
Zimmerman, Giffords' director of community outreach, was killed and Congresswoman Giffords was shot through the left side of the brain.
Both have dedicated their lives to serving others, and had promising political careers. Like many of us, they were introduced to United States history and government through teachers Dr. John Hosmer and Mr. Paul Karlowicz, who have taught at University High School for over 20 years.
Gabe Zimmerman, as described by Dr. Hosmer, was "very gregarious, very funny, very witty." Mr. Karlowicz also says that Zimmerman was a "kid with an interesting sense of humor. Whenever there was a zinger to be zung, he did."
Additionally, Dr. Hosmer notes Zimmerman's popularity and charming personality. Voted as Most Likely to Hibernate through the Winter, he also played for the varsity soccer team. According to senior Leonard Knittel, the team plans to dedicate the rest of the soccer season to Zimmerman.
Gabrielle Giffords, who graduated 10 years earlier, was a bright, mature and motivated student. According to Dr. Hosmer, she sat in the front row, was eager to "get on with things … and did not handle fools gladly." She had a pleasant personality and often mentioned her parents and grandfather with fondness. Giffords, a senior party leader in the mock election project, also often rode her motorcycle to school.
After high school, Zimmerman and Giffords both received bachelor's degrees in sociology, from UC Santa Cruz and Scripps College, respectively. Later, Zimmerman worked at Arizona Children's Association with disturbed children, joining the Giffords campaign in 2006. Giffords managed a local business - her grandfather's El Campo Tire Warehouses - before entering politics in 2001. Compassionate and goal-oriented, both were eager to listen to and help others.
Zimmerman began as a field organizer before being made constituent services and outreach director due to his cooperative and kind personality. Dr. Hosmer said that in his last encounter with him, about six weeks ago, Zimmerman "was so helpful … incredibly polite and professional." Congressional aides often go on to careers in politics. Dr. Hosmer says perhaps Giffords was "grooming him for (her) replacement."
In his former role as president of the Tucson Education Association, Mr. Karlowicz often visited then-state legislator Giffords and says that reports of her "congeniality and graciousness are entirely true." More recently, about a year ago, Mr. Karlowicz and his young daughter ran into Giffords outside of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. He remembers how Gabby treated his daughter "like a queen," asking questions about the children's book Stuart Little "as if it was the latest legislation."
As the UHS community comes to terms with the tragedy, several plans to honor the victims are already taking shape. UHS students who are a part of the Helping Out Tucson group are organizing a food drive to support the Community Food Bank, one of Giffords' favorite charities. This group also created two banners for students, faculty and staff to sign before adding them to memorials outside University Medical Center and Giffords' Tucson headquarters. Members of the site council will also be setting up a memorabilia case on campus to honor the two victims.
Additionally, seniors of the current AP Government classes plan to dedicate the senior mock election project to both the victims. Mr. Karlowicz, along with many seniors, hopes the debates will encourage "soul searching about not just rhetoric but the availability of guns." Possible focal points include the Framers' intent regarding the Second Amendment, as well as the media passion and political hyperbole that have been widely discussed in the wake of the tragedy.
The senior mock election debates will be held in the auditorium the morning of Jan. 26.
Speaking at the debates will be Beatrice Nielsen, current chair for first period's Party Frontier. Nielsen spent the summer working for the Giffords campaign. When she heard the news, she said she felt "shocked. It broke my heart … and changed the face of politics."