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Tucson attack hits close to home

Published: January 21, 2011
Section: Front Page


Three-thousand miles from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) southern Arizona district, the Tucson attack on the congresswoman and her constituents nonetheless reached the Brandeis community in a personal way.

Ben Zimmerman, a first-year international economics and finance student at the International Business School (IBS), is the brother of the late Gabe Zimmerman, an aide of Giffords’ who was shot and killed by gunman Jared Lee Loughner Jan. 8.

Ben Zimmerman wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot that the community has been supportive during his difficult time.

“IBS faculty, staff and students as well as the greater Brandeis Community have all been very supportive, and I very much appreciate [that] support,” he wrote from Tucson.

Gabe Zimmerman was director of community outreach for Giffords and received a special testament at the televised memorial service for the victims by President Obama, himself a former community organizer.

The Zimmerman brothers were also the primary subject of President Fred Lawrence’s community-wide e-mail written in the wake of the shooting.

“We are all deeply saddened by the horrific events over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Any act of violence is abhorrent, but the shooting of an elected public servant strikes at the core of our democratic society,” Lawrence wrote. “The tragedy of the attack hit this community in a very personal way … I know everyone at Brandeis joins me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to Ben and his family during this very dark time.”

Annie Chiorazzi ’11 also lives in Tucson and spends school breaks there with her family, mere blocks from the Safeway supermarket where Giffords, Zimmerman and 17 others were shot.

“My initial reaction was a lot of disbelief, and I’m sorry to say it, but my first thought was, ‘Oh, Arizona, again?’” she said, referencing other political controversies the state has been subjected to, such as the spirited debate over recent immigration and health care changes.

“But I was buying into the stereotypes that Arizona’s going crazy. But the more I learned, it’s just a one-time thing—it could have happened anywhere,” she said.

Chiorazzi, rather than guess the shooter’s motivations, said after the short time since the incident, that she thinks only about response.

“I thought Arizona did a really nice job. There’s so much hurt and pain, and yet my family has said there’s just been an outpouring of love there,” she said.

Ben Zimmerman also said that the reaction of the nation to the Tucson tragedy was for the most part appropriate, when focusing on hope.

“I thought [Obama] gave a very powerful and very moving speech,” he wrote, adding that “included in that speech were words of guidance for the country: I hope we as Americans can take those words to heart, I know that I will.”

In that spirit, Chiorazzi’s father participated in a memorial run for the victims, something Chiorazzi said she wished she could have been home to attend.

“There is a decent amount of attention [on Arizona and its politics and] this situation,” she said. “The hardest part for me is not being in Tucson, with the community.

“For me, Tucson just means home,” she said.