Josh Brodesky: 3 of the slain had less notice but were loved dearly as well

2011-01-16T00:00:00Z Josh Brodesky: 3 of the slain had less notice but were loved dearly as wellJosh Brodesky Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Let's not lose sight of Phyllis Schneck, Dorothy Morris and Dorwan Stoddard.

Our other victims, whose deaths received less attention, whose names were originally misspelled. They are the "also killed." Names that almost always come after Judge John M. Roll, Christina-Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman in news accounts.

And they will be missed.

There were stretches last week - days, really - where time kept passing over us like a needle on a scratched record. The days would spin forward, from sunrise to sunset, and yet we were right back at Saturday morning again and again.

"With us, time kind of goes away," remarked Betty Jean Offutt, one of Phyllis Schneck's daughters.

And so it was with all of us.

Six dead. Thirteen injured. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded. One deranged man with a gun.

We were all shot in that attack. Our grieving is palpable, even now, as it begins to slip into the background of life.

You can see our yearning for peace and healing in the flickering candles and bunches of bouquets outside Giffords' congressional office and University Medical Center, where she and other victims, like George Morris, heal. These impromptu shrines are simple symbols of our hopes and prayers, but they are also an expression that we will not be defined by this attack.

And we won't be.

It was only after President Obama's speech in Tucson Wednesday night that time seemed to move forward again. Roger Salzgeber, one of our heroes who tackled the gunman, told me he finally was able to sleep then. And not just sleep. He dared to dream that one day, things might be better in our town.

The president restored a quiet peace to our city, in part by asking us to see the best of ourselves in the victims in this shooting. In Dorothy and George Morris and Dorwan and Mavanell Stoddard - two sets of high-school sweethearts now torn from one another - he saw the abiding love we can have for our partners. In Phyllis Schneck, he saw the doting love of a mother or a grandmother. After all, she was a woman who liked to sew aprons - complete with a label showing it was custom made - for her friends and their children.

I've never met Dot and George Morris or Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard. But through reporting the past week, I feel as if I do know Phyllis Schneck. Watching the president's speech at her church, Northminster Presbyterian, where her friends and fellow church members gathered quietly and with solemnity, I couldn't help but think Schneck was so much more than a grandmother figure. She was a unifier, who embodied so much of what we strive for. And she was a giver.

In an age when people talk about bipartisanship, Schneck was an ardent Republican who kept her mind open enough to support Giffords, a Democrat. She was a Christian who played mah-jongg every week with a group of Jewish women. In a world where politics and religion can divide us - not to mention race - she brought people together.

For worthy reflection and debate, visit Schneck's sewing group at Northminster. It's a group with Democrats, Republicans and independents.

"We're all interested in the politics of the day," said Julie Crane when the group came together days after the shooting. "We read the paper. We listen. And we vote."

And even though they had lost their dear friend in this tragedy, they were not willing to use her death to invoke rhetoric and were saddened that some had.

"This young man just did not have the skills" to live a normal, healthy life, Diane Shackelford said. "He was mentally unstable."

"It's hard to forgive," said Pat Stevens. "It's going to take a while for me anyway. I know I have to."

As President Obama told us Wednesday night, "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we lost."

We have lost something immeasurable in this community. There are no words to describe it. There is no way to make sense of it.

Slowly we will move forward, and this tragedy will somehow fade into the background. We will all remember where we were and what we were doing on Jan. 8 around 10 a.m.

But the real question going forward is how much will we change?

Contact columnist Josh Brodesky at 573-4242 or jbrodesky@azstarnet.com

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

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