It was a Saturday. Children in the neighborhood were playing catch in what was chilly weather for an Arizona morning. Christina had woken up early but not to join them. She was going with a neighbor to see her legislator Gabrielle Giffords. Christina had been obsessed with politics since her election to student president at Mesa Verda Elementary School.
She saw it as a calling. Christina Taylor Green had been born on September 11, 2001. Rising from the ashes of that tragedy had inspired her to lead and make a difference in the world. That her face was featured in the book Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 only furthered her resolve. She was what was in essence a new generation, removed from the era of the comparatively peaceful and much more prosperous 1990s.
The campaign of Barack Obama made her realize that even at a young age she could not sit idly by and wait for others to take charge. She had a duty to peers and those around her. Christina decided she would speak to and learn from everyone she could.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, commonly known as Gabby, was emblematic of the kind of person Christina aspired to be one day. She, a liberal, had won reelection in remarkably conservative district. Even more remarkably she had done so without compromising her integrity. She believed everyone should access to affordable healthcare and she stood by it. The politics were against her and a great deal of the public. A brick had even been thrown through her window at one point. But she remained undeterred by violence. The right thing was most important and she would do whatever it took for the people of her district and in a larger sense the nation to not live in fear of illness bringing them down into financial ruin.
Going through that legacy of Giffords in her head Christina packed notepads into a backpack, along with pens and pencils. She was confident she would be taking notes at some point and it was better to be safe than sorry. Did she need a book? The car ride would only be a few minutes. Christina looked at her large stack. Which one, if any? There was a large manuscript on healthcare data. She grabbed it. Representative Giffords might give her some useful insights when they met.
The car ride took longer than she thought it would. Maybe it was the anticipation. Things had moved so fast for her. Months before she had just started the third grade. Now she was a leader; the only girl on an otherwise all-boys little league team. Her father had been especially proud of the latter. His father had been a manager for the Phillies and baseball seemed to run inside the Green bloodline.
“Auntie” she said to her neighbor, whom she about as close to as any relative. “How much longer?”
“Any minute now,” she replied, getting ready to merge.
The wait was agonizing as much as she loved spending time with her aunt. They got closer, however, even if Christina did not quite feel that way. She had been shopping at the Safeway they were going to a hundred times. They had bought groceries, medicine and countless other everyday items. But Christina felt she was going there for the very first time. She gasped when it came into view, as if the location had just sprung up.
Her aunt parked the car. It was not terribly crowded. There could not have been more than twenty people or so, with a lot of them being Giffords staff.
Christina practically bolted out of the car. Her neighbor had a laugh, telling her to wait up. Christina realized her error and went back to walk with her. They had a long discussion about solar power that stretched into the topic of immigration. Christina favored amnesty but her aunt just wasn’t sure if that was the right way to go about it.
“We’re here” her aunt finally said as they approached the front of the Safeway store.
Aides were busy setting up a table and connecting the microphone. It looked like it would be a while. Christina got out her book on healthcare data. More than 50 million Americans and more than 7 million children were living without health insurance. 37% of low-wage workers in 2008 had no insurance, private or public.
Gabrielle approached the crowd and started speaking. In a fury Christina raced to get out her notepad, lest she miss something important. She looked up to see a man she recognized greeting the congresswoman. He was a federal judge and Christina recalled seeing him on television once. There had been a death threat against him for his stance on a particular case. The details escaped Christina at the moment, however.
Something strange was happening. Christina could no longer see Congresswoman Giffords. An incredible noise echoed through the crowd. She pushed her way through much larger adults to see her favorite legislature hit the ground. Another ear piercing sound. Christina’s ear drums rang. Someone else was down. Was it the judge, or an aide? She was in shock, she could not move. A man turned to face her.
Christina felt her chest. It was a strange sensation. Pain seemed only momentary. Drowsiness took hold of her. The world around became a blur. The shape of a man stepped in front of a woman. He was likely a husband, possibly her sibling. Another blast, followed by what might have been ten or twenty more. A group of two or three aides at long last tackled the gunman as he tried to flee. Christina closed her eyes and when she opened them the scene was gone.
She was in her grandma’s arms again. An aide was there, the judge and what looked like eight others. One of them she recognized immediately as Representative Giffords. She had had so much to ask her before and now it all seemed unimportant.
“Mrs. Giffords,” she began, still being held by her grandmother. She could only think of one thing to say, however. “Where are we?”
“I can’t be sure…” She replied.
Different people began to disappear. Ten people soon became seven. And it seemed as if Representative Giffords was becoming less pale. She came over and she held Christina’s hand. It was warm compared to hers which was getting colder by the second.
“What had you come to ask me today?” She inquired with a smile.
“I was just elected president of the Mesa Verda student council last year. I felt so inspired by Obama and your stance on healthcare.”
“That’s a wonderful accomplishment. I was never president.”
They shared a laugh. Gabby grabbed Christina’s shoulder and got down to eye level with her.
“But that’s hardly a question. What did you really want to say today?”
“So much… it really seems impossible to recall everything anymore. I really wanted the country to come together again like they did the day I was born.”
“I think it will” said Gabby. She began fading like the others. But her grasp was just as strong as ever, comforting Christina.
“Wait,” said Christina, before she left completely, “what did you think of Michael Moore’s documentary Sick-o?”
“Enlightening,” said Gabby before returning back to Earth.