Tucson’s Rays of Hope: Empathy, Civility and Donated Organs Restore the Sense of Sight For Two Children

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Women stand next to a spray painted sign across from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church prior to the funeral for nine-year-old Christina Green in Tucson, Arizona, January 13, 2011.

REUTERS/Mike Segar

When grappling with the tragedy in Tucson, it’s difficult to imagine extracting hope from the heartbreaking carnage.  After all, what could possibly refute the scorching pain felt in the wake of the massacre that played out in a suburban parking lot? But bringing light to the shadows is this trio of inspiring stories.

The first headline to emerge from Tuscon was the assassination attempt targeting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the third term Arizona congresswoman. While many cringe thinking of her accused shooter Jared Loughner’s troubled existence, Gifford’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, publicly reached out to the few people who knew Loughner best.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not the parents fault,” Kelly told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Tuesday, in his first interview since his wife’s injury. He went on to say that he would be willing to consider meeting the Loughners in person. “You know, I’d like to think I’m a person that’s, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they’ve got to be hurting in this situation as much as anybody.”

(More on TIME.com: Waiting to meet Loughner’s parents.)

Kelly’s invitation follows limited public involvement from Randy and Amy Loughner, Jared’s parents. The couple has only released one statement since Jan. 8, saying that they were grieving for those dead and injured. Neighbors report them remaining mostly in seclusion.

Inspiring story number two pertains to Giffords’ peers in congress. Following President Obama’s call for enhanced civility, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) recently proposed a bill to instate bipartisan seating of members of the Senate and the House of Representative at the annual State of the Union address Jan. 25. While seating at the President’s annual address is technically open, Udall’s request is largely a “symbolic gesture of unity.”

As the proposal gained steam, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined on as its co-sponsor.

“Congressional reaction to the president’s State of the Union address has increasingly come to symbolize the sharp partisan divide in Congress,” Murkowski said in a statement. “So we think a good first step towards greater civility would be for senators and congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, to sit together in the House chamber on Jan. 25 when President Obama addresses a joint session.”

But both these stories pale in comparison to that of the youngest Tucson victim. You probably remember seeing a photo of 9-year-old Christina Green in the paper: She was the third grader whose chocolate-brown eyes caused a nation’s stomach to knot, pondering the lost future of this baseball player and elementary school politician. She was the girl with the big-toothed grin who sang in her church choir and enjoyed volunteering as a tutor.

(More on TIME.com: Read about the troubled life of Jared Loughner.)

Christina’s life is book-ended in horrific American tragedies—beginning on September 11, 2001 and ending on January 8, 2011. She represented Pennsylvania as one of the 50 “Faces of Hope,” a book of photos of children born in each state on Sept. 11, printed to benefit charity.

Monday, Christina’s father John announced that the Donor Network of Arizona informed him that his daughter’s corneas have been donated to save two children’s sight. The grieving father said that knowing that Christina’s organs are helping other children is a great comfort to his family.

“The fact that her organs were able to help people, that was an amazing thing to me,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s just another thing that this little girl has given the world.”

(More on TIME.com: Read TIME’s cover story on the lesson of Tuscon.)

An estimated 100,000 Americans are on a waiting list for organ transplants, roughly 2,000 of whom are below age ten. After her grandmother died last year of brain bleeding, Christina “thought it was fabulous” that her organs had been donated, her mother Roxana Green said.

“Learn from this, do it now,” she advised those considering organ donation. “Maybe you hadn’t quite put it on your driver’s license, but I am urging people to just do it now. Tell your loved ones you want to do it. Think in advance. A lot of people don’t think about it until something really bad happens.”

Out of the ashes of tragedy, Christina Green gives two children the ultimate gift of hope.

(via Politico and ABC News)

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