Best words a dad can hear: 'Your daughter is OK'

2013-06-16T00:00:00Z Best words a dad can hear: 'Your daughter is OK'Editor's note: The following is written by the daughter of Jim Kiser, who worked at the Arizona Daily Star, including as editorial page editor, for many years. Lisa Kiser Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I only remember my father recounting this story two times, and both times were memorable. The first time was on Oct. 28, 2002, when he told me what happened when he arrived at work:

"I was walking across the parking lot of the Arizona Daily Star, when Dave Fitzsimmons came out to meet me. He told me the story of what happened by saying first, "Jim, your daughter is OK …"

I will always remember the emotion in his voice, the first time he told me that story, reflective of the pain we all were feeling that day.

I was a student at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, taking a midterm when a fellow student who was failing the class came in and shot two of our professors to death. Minutes before, he had shot and killed a third professor in her office. After the shootings, he held us briefly in the classroom, and then let us go, subsequently killing himself.

My dad, for those of you who know him - and I imagine many of you feel that you do, given his years of service at the Star and his good work in the community - is one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I have ever met.

He married my mom in 1979 and adopted my sister and me. I never think of myself as "adopted" though, in that he has so fully and completely fulfilled his role as my father that it is as much a given that he is my dad as if he had been by father from birth.

I know, then, what it means to have a good father, and I think, in part, that explains how I felt when I read the news of the shootings in Aurora, Colo. It happens that we were on a family trip at that time, traveling to scatter my aunt and uncle's remains following the death of my aunt. It was already an emotional trip, and when I read the news of the shootings, I felt deeply shaken, more so than I had in a long time.

What bothered me the most was the front page picture that ran of a father who had just received the news that his son had been shot and killed. I felt outrage that this moment of personal grief and terror was so publicly displayed, perhaps in part because I could see in his face the face of my own father, and the grief that might have been, had I been shot and killed that day in October 2002.

It had been a hard day. My mom and dad came into the room to check on me. My dad sat down on the bed, took my hand, and for the second time in 10 years began the story:

"I remember Dave Fitzsimmons walking across the parking lot to tell me the news. He told me, "Jim, your daughter is OK ..."

And then my father began to cry, and holding his hand, I cried with him. We cried for what happened in Aurora. We cried for what happened that awful day on Oct, 28, 2002. And we cried for the father whose son was killed, who will never hear the news, "Your child is OK …"

I am telling this story, first and foremost, in honor of my dad, for Father's Day, and for all the fathers who love their children as dearly as I have been loved, and am loved.

I am also writing this story on the six-month anniversary of the shootings at Newtown, Conn., remembering those fathers whose grief was made too real, a grief that persists long after the headlines are gone.

Fitzsimmons depicted it best, after the Tucson shootings in 2011, when he drew an editorial cartoon showing the endless cycle of gun violence in our society, as we move from regret, remorse and resolve to inaction, until another shooting starts the cycle again.

We can and must do better than this. And it will take the kind of love my father and I share - the love a father has for a child, and a child for a father - to make it happen.

Lisa Kiser is a nurse-midwife and women's health nurse practitioner, who works as a nursing instructor.

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

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