Daniel Hernandez Jr. and then-UA student body president Emily Fritze at the 2011 Together We Thrive memorial event at the UA.


Plenty of people said they would use the horrific events of last Jan. 8 to inspire positive changes in their lives.

Emily Fritze, who was president of the University of Arizona student government when the shootings rocked Tucson, actually did it.

"I believe that my story is an example of how the events on Jan. 8 changed many Tucsonans' and Arizonans' perspective on life and the choices they made for the future," Fritze, 22, said via email. "The tragedy on Jan. 8 will always be a constant reminder of how quickly life can change, how valuable life is (and) how much I have to be thankful for."

The Phoenix native moved to Washington, D.C., after her graduation in May from the UA and in August went to work as a staff assistant in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office.

She describes her new position as being "the face of the office." Her duties include greeting guests, helping to manage Capitol tour and flag requests, and other tasks requested by her colleagues. She also helps work with interns - a position she is familiar with, since she worked as an intern for Giffords' office in 2009.

Her interest in government started long before the shooting, when she first ran for student government in elementary school. It grew when she got to the UA and took flight when she met President Obama when he visited Tucson a few days after the shootings to speak at McKale Center.

Meeting Obama was "surreal," Fritze said in an email. "It was hard to believe that the leader of the free world was standing in my university's gym to address the people in my community. Although the president came to Tucson in response to a horrific tragedy, I will never forget the comfort his presence brought to our community during a difficult time."

Ashley Nash-Hahn, deputy press secretary for Giffords, described Fritze as bright and a joy to work with. She already has a sense of how to serve the people of Southern Arizona, Nash-Hahn said.

"Her experience interning in the Tucson office gave her great perspective on what constituents in Congressional District 8 really need," she said.

Fritze has strong Arizona ties but wanted to try something new while retaining some connections with home, she said in a phone interview.

"I've always lived there, but I wanted to experience a new city," Fritze said. "I'm also glad that I get to keep my roots."