Saturday mornings 40 years apart collided as the "sick to my stomach" feeling overcame me.

May 21, 1971, in Flushing, N.Y., and Jan. 8, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz., will forever be linked in my mind by the similar rush of adrenaline that overcame my body in reaction to the news of a tragedy in my community that was felt throughout the entire country.

Both heartbreaks came into my life on a Saturday morning at about 10 a.m. when the news slammed into my psyche.

I was working at Expressway Pharmacy on 159th Street and the LIE (Long Island Expressway) that bright, sunny day in 1971. A Piagentini family member came in and related the story of the horrific shooting of Officers Joe Piagentini and Waverly Jones the night before.

The moment is etched in my mind. NYPD officers Piagentini and Jones had been ambushed and slain by members of the Black Liberation Army.

Joe Piagentini was not just another police officer to me. He was Bobby, Tommy, and Betty Ann's older brother. We had all played together in the schoolyard at PS 163 at the end of our street.

Jan. 8, 2011, was another bright, sunny day when news of a tragedy, this time in our adopted home of Tucson, once again barged into my psyche.

I treasure an award for community leadership given to me by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as well as the picture taken by her aide Gabe Zimmerman, a very special young man. His life was cut short in this, another senseless shooting.

Two tragedies 40 years and thousands of miles apart seem to come together with an eerie similarity. They both shook my being with the loss of life of folks who are a part of my community and my world.

Looking back, despite the years gone by, the backdrop of the times seamlessly knits these two disparate places and tragedies together. The turmoil of social and political issues permeates the nation's consciousness.

Feelings were running high during the late 1960s and early '70s. Social and political change were in the air and change is never easy.

In 2011, change is in the air and we all feel the angst.

The commonality is that both New York City and greater Tucson are wonderful places to live where people from all over the world come to visit and sometimes stay.

The irony of watching as our president, an African-American, spoke to our fellow citizens to bring calm did not escape this young man who lived through the 1971 tragedy.

Motivation and preventive measures for these senseless acts will be a debate that will become history.

My hope is that 1/08/11 will mark the beginning of understanding the political and social evolution that is needed in our times.

Enjoy the journey,


E-mail Bob Oro at