Community, Families Of Shooting Victims Mourn

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition Tuesday. Doctors say she is alert, responsive and capable of breathing on her own. Details about Giffords' condition came in a news conference at the University of Arizona Medical Center. Also on hand were friends and family of some of the other victims of the tragic shooting in Tucson.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona remains in critical condition today. Doctors say she is alert, responsive and capable of breathing on her own. But they are leaving in a breathing tube to prevent complications such as pneumonia.

Those details came in a news conference at the University of Arizona Medical Center, where friends and family of some of Saturday's other victims spoke to reporters. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, the hospital has become a gathering place for the community.

RICHARD GONZALES: In front of the impromptu memorial at the University Medical Center, a local mariachi band belted out a ballad of sadness and longing.

(Soundbite of music)

GONZALES: Violinist Arispa Ellenwood said her band, Mariachi Aritzlan, had played once before for Congresswoman Giffords. She said the band hoped music would help heal the pain felt everywhere in Tucson.

Ms. ARISPA ELLENWOOD (Musician): I think it's really horrible when people do stuff like that. It was actually really scary. You want people to feel open and comfortable to talk to congresspeople or just anyone in an open space, and you don't want to feel, like, threatened or feel scared to do stuff like that.

GONZALES: Inside, doctors talked of their cautious optimism about Congresswoman Giffords' condition. There's been no increase in the swelling of her brain. But her neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, said that her recovery will proceed on her timeline, not ours.

Dr. MICHAEL LEMOLE (Neurosurgeon, University Medical Center): She's going to take her recovery at her own pace. And I'm very encouraged by the fact that she has done so well. A penetrating injury to the skull, the survival, let alone recovery, is abysmal. She has no right to look this good, and she does.

GONZALES: The families of other victims were taking their own time in healing as well. The parents of nine-year-old Christina Green, the youngster killed in the attack, were not there. Christina was at the mall with her neighbor, Susan Heilman, who was among the victims. Susan is now recovering, says her husband, Bill.

Mr. BILL HEILMAN: Susie had her breathing tube removed late Saturday evening, and she looked me in the eyes and said: What about Christina? We were advised that the exact right thing to do, which coincides with 40 years of knowing her and knowing there's no other right way to deal with her, was to tell her the exact truth, which we've done.

She's only kind of coming out of all this very slowly, and I don't know for sure all of what has truly been absorbed at this point.

GONZALES: A memorial service for Christina Green is scheduled for Wednesday. Tucson is also preparing for the arrival of President Barack Obama tomorrow. People planning to attend the event are being advised to expect higher-than-usual security.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Tucson.

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