Tucson, AZ lies in the southern part of the state, just one hour’s drive north of the Mexican border. I lived there when I was in sixth grade. It has the aura of a small, sleepy town; it has no cross-town freeways and no evident skyscrapers. My brother lives there so Tom and I are frequent visitors. As we drive across town we get the feeling nothing bad ever happens in this lovely town filled with adobe homes, saguaro cactus, and small shopping centers. The Santa Catalina Mountain range on the northeast part of the town watches over it. The highest point is Mount Lemmon, at an elevation of 9,157 feet above sea level and receives 180 inches of snow annually making it a must for ski enthusiasts. It is also a haven for snowbirds in the winter months making traffic in this freeway-less town a nightmare, especially for the natives.
My younger sister was killed in this town. As she drove into town to meet my brother and me for a few days visit, a woman ran a stop sign and hit Jeanne’s Volkswagen in the front end driving the steering wheel into her chest and tearing her liver in three places. She died seven hours later and is buried in a quiet Catholic cemetery. I had raised her and we had a closeness few people ever achieve, at times reading each other’s minds. The day she was killed remains the most painful of days: filled with memories of hearing a crash in my head at exactly 6pm as I played tennis with my brother, racing back to his house to a ringing phone, the hospital telling me she had been hit at 6 pm but was scheduled for surgery as they were helicoptering in a specialist, hours of pacing the waiting room at the hospital, waiting for her husband to arrive from the military post where he lived as a soldier in the army, the doctor announcing at 1:30 that she had expired, me wondering what that word meant before I began screaming, a vague memory of three doctors holding me down as they shot morphine into my blood stream, three painful days of planning her funeral and finally, the long drive back to Los Angeles where I wondered how I could go on without her. How selfish are the bereaved left behind, thinking only of their own pain.
This little town, which means so much to me and has provided so much of my history, has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Their crime index is 4,983 crimes per 100,000 population, exceeding both nearby Maricopa County and the state average. It has its own Domestic Violence Court.
As of March 22, 2013, 450 registered sex offenders live in Tucson. The ratio of number of residents in Tucson to the number of sex offenders is 1,219 to 1. If you look at an OSM Map the red pins, each representing a different sex offenders, are so thickly clustered together that one would think it would be difficult to travel through the city without bumping into one; a chilling thought. Tucson has seen a 44% increase in child abuse reports since 2009, and right now more than 14,000 kids are in the system. . Organizers say the economic crash and state budget cuts are the main factors especially because of the cuts in many of the support services. Last week an 18-month-old girl died. Her mother and another man are charged with first-degree murder. We don’t have a Lamplighter chapter there but I am trying to find someone to start one. If anyone knows of someone who would be willing to start a chapter there could they please email me at Margie@thelamplighters.org. Our website is http://www.thelamplighters.org.
Tucson is a town of light. Tucson is a town of dark. I have experienced both there and it always reminds me that life itself brings both light and dark.