Tucson Residents Still Processing Deadly Shooting

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others has dominated the conversation in Tucson, Ariz. Jared Loughner, the man accused of the shootings made his first court appearance Monday.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Tomorrow, we hear the formal remembrance of the victims of the Tucson shooting. President Obama will be among those speaking at a service after Saturday's mass shooting.

INSKEEP: Today, we sample the informal conversation. The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others has dominated people's thoughts in Tucson, Arizona.

NPR's Ted Robbins went to a popular gathering place in the city's downtown.

(Soundbite of music)

TED ROBBINS: Upbeat bluegrass music seems a little odd for the occasion. But it makes sense because runners and walkers meet every Monday to socialize on the patio of Maynard's Market and Kitchen, in the old train depot in downtown Tucson. Their motto is: Get out - as in get out of your house and meet people.

Last night was just a little different.

(Soundbite of a crowd)

Ms. JANNIE COX (Organizer, Meet Me at Maynards): All right, everyone can get their ribbons on the other side of the patio. Get a ribbon for your sleeve.

ROBBINS: A black ribbon. Older people, younger people, babies in strollers gathered, a lot more people than on the usual Monday, may be 250.

For some, like Sarah Evans(ph), it was the first they'd been in public since the shooting Saturday.

Ms. SARAH EVANS: It's kind of like 9/11 for me. It took me a long time to wrap my head around the complexity of all the events that happened.

ROBBINS: The tears are never too far away as she talks. It will be a while before the processing is complete, if it ever is.

As the runners and walkers are about to set off, organizer Jannie Cox has only two instructions: Obey the traffic laws, and be compassionate with one another - even if it's for a moment with a stranger in the grocery store.

Ms. COX: Say hello. Say hope you're having a great day. Do it from your heart, starting tonight, for the rest of your life. Maybe that could have made a difference years ago with this young man, and maybe not. But we can make a difference going forward.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

ROBBINS: Eight miles north in the shopping center where the shooting took place, Steve Minton(ph) says he has a hard time feeling compassionate toward Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused of the massacre, especially, says Minton, if he were picked for Loughner's jury.

Mr. STEVE MINTON: Well, if I were picked, I would be inclined to push for the death penalty for Jared Loughner. I mean, how can you look favorably on someone who came here with the express purpose of committing wholesale slaughter?

ROBBINS: Jared Lee Loughner could face the death penalty. He was taken from Tucson to the federal courthouse in Phoenix, where he entered the courtroom head shaved, heavily shackled, wearing a tan jumpsuit.

Loughner faces five federal counts: Attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two murder counts of federal employees - Judge John Roll and Giffords' staff member, Gabe Zimmerman - and two attempted murder charges.

Loughner did not enter a plea. It's expected he'll face state charges, as well.

As for Giffords, she is the only survivor still in critical condition. But Dr. Peter Rhee, head of trauma surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson, continues to be optimistic.

Dr. PETER RHEE (Chief of Trauma Surgery, University Medical Center): At this phase, things are going very well. So the worry about the swelling is gone.

ROBBINS: The dangerous swelling typical of brain injuries is not taking place, says Rhee, because surgeons removed part of Giffords' skull to lessen the pressure.

The congresswoman continues to signal and respond to directions to move her hands. But she is not, as they say, out of the woods.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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