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Memorial Mass Honors Victims Of Tucson Shooting

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Memorial Mass Honors Victims Of Tucson Shooting

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Memorial Mass Honors Victims Of Tucson Shooting

Memorial Mass Honors Victims Of Tucson Shooting

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Mourners packed a Catholic Church in Tucson, Ariz., Tuesday night, just blocks from a shopping center where a gunman killed six people Saturday. Wednesday evening, President Obama will attend another memorial service. Meanwhile, the family of the alleged killer, silent for three days, issued a statement.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

People packed a Catholic church in Tucson last night. They were blocks from a shopping where a gunman killed six people and wounded a member of Congress over the weekend. People attended one of a number of services in honor of the victims.

When President Obama speaks at a service tonight, the crowd is expected to fill a basketball arena. And as people mourn, the family of the alleged killer has made an apology.

NPR's Jeff Brady has our story from Tucson.

JEFF BRADY: Reporters have been camped outside the home where 22-year-old Jared Loughner lived with his parents. Tuesday afternoon, two unidentified men emerged and handed out a statement from the family. It reads: This is a very difficult time for us. We ask the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss. Thank you, the Loughner family.

(Soundbite of organ music)

Unidentified People: (Singing) We walk by faith and not by sight.

BRADY: At St. Odilia Parish, mourners sang and took communion Tuesday evening. A large group of reporters outside were not allowed in the church, but a scratchy Internet feed of the service was available online.

Here's Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

Bishop GERALD KICANAS (St. Odilia Parish): The tragedy of that Saturday morning will haunt us for a long, long time.

BRADY: Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano also was invited to speak to the crowd, which included the family of nine-year-old Christina Green.

Bishop MINERVA CARCANO (United Methodist Church): One who in her short life -in her nine years of life - had already come forth as a servant leader. Let us honor her life by working and serving in this community and serving God in this world.

BRADY: Green was on her student council and reportedly had expressed an interest in public service. That's why she was at Representative Gabrielle Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event.

Giffords remains at University Medical Center in critical condition after a bullet traveled through the left side of her brain. Doctor Michael Lemole says she's able to breathe on her own now, but a ventilator is remaining in place to reduce the risk of pneumonia. Lemole said beyond that, not much has changed in recent days.

Dr. MICHAEL LEMOLE (Chief of Neurosurgery, University Medical Center): It's week-to-week, month-to-month, and I know everyone wants to hear new results every day, but as long as we don't backslide and as long as she holds her own, that's good. That keeps us hopeful.

BRADY: At a hospital briefing Tuesday, family members of others who were injured during the shooting also spoke. Penny Wilson was there with her sister, who offered support as Wilson spoke in front of the dozen or so cameras lined up. Their mother is Mavy Stoddard, who was shot in the leg and released from the hospital Monday.

Ms. PENNY WILSON: Our mother is doing quite well, actually. She has a lot of strength and...

Ms. ANGELA ROBINSON: Courage.

Ms. WILSON: ...courage, and she will go forward. She has a long road ahead of her, but her condition is good, I think.

BRADY: Their stepfather, 76-year-old Dorwin Stoddard, did not survive the shooting. The family calls him a hero for using his body to shield his wife from the gunman.

Bill Hileman also was at the briefing to talk about his wife Susan, who brought nine-year-old Christina Green to meet Representative Giffords. Hileman says his wife will recover from her physical wounds, but psychologically it'll be difficult.

Mr. BILL HILEMAN: In her clearest-headed state, she is quite understanding that this was the act of a madman and that blame does no good for anybody. Unfortunately, we're all human and we have dark moments where the inevitable occurs and we're going to have that as an ongoing issue to deal with.

BRADY: Christina Green's funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tucson.

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