After The Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued

Emotional Town Hall on Tucson Tragedy on a Special 'This Week'

ByABC News
January 15, 2011, 7:04 PM

January 15, 2011— -- In an emotional town hall event on "This Week," anchor Christiane Amanpour gathered together – for the first time since the tragic shooting – many of those who were in the Safeway parking lot on that fateful day when Rep. Gabriel Giffords, D-AZ, and 18 others were shot.

The colonel who wrestled the gunman to ground, the petite woman who knocked away his ammunition, the heroic intern who staunched the Congresswoman's bleeding – all joined Amanpour in Tucson. Other Members of Congress came to the town hall as well: Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., along with former Arizona Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe. All the victims of the tragedy were invited and a thoughtful, forthright and stirring conversation ensued.

Anna Ballis, who was at the Safeway eight days ago, talked to Amanpour about the moment of the shooting. She had intended to go the grocery store, but never made it inside. She remembered seeing Christina-Taylor Green, moments before the nine-year-old girl was killed. "I do remember looking over and seeing Christina, and she was quite excited about meeting the congresswoman, jumping up and down. And, unfortunately, she never made it," Ballis said, choking back tears.

Bill Heilman, whose wife Suzie was shot escorting Green to meet Congresswoman Giffords, talked about the wrenching emotional journey Suzie is going through.

"Suzie has had Christina on her mind from the moment she woke up," Heilman said. "I sensed that once she did finally lose consciousness, she had described right before that their hands still being held, being on the ground, absolutely eyeball to eyeball with Christina. And that is the image that was in her head until she woke up after her surgery," he said.

"All she wanted to do was to give a little girl a chance to see what she herself could become someday in a way that Suzie and her generation felt she never could," Heilman told Amanpour.

"She's a strong woman," Heilman said of his wife, "and she knows rationally that there's no blame to be apportioned. But the fact of the matter is, she took a little neighbor's girl away that morning and was unable to bring her home."

Green was laid to rest on Thursday.

Dr. David Bowman was shopping in the Safeway when shots rang out. He rushed to the scene to administer first aid and help triage patients. But Bowman insists he's not a hero.

"I don't think any of us are" heroes, he told Amanpour. "I think that there were maybe heroic things done by normal people. That means we're human beings and I think that's, to me, one of the most lasting impressions is to see what people were doing for someone else," the doctor explained.

"Injured people helping someone else more injured. Not concerned about themselves and not screaming and not yelling, 'Medic! Medic!' [But] helping the person next to them," Bowman said. "It gives you a lot of hope that we're doing it the right way somehow."

Lynne Riach, a neighbor of the family of alleged killer Jared L. Loughner, told Amanpour that beautiful music used to come from the Loughner's home.

"About four years ago and a couple of years before that, Jared played in a jazz band and I just loved sitting in my house listening to that music come out of the house. And something changed," Riach said.

She explained that she went over to speak with the Loughners to see if their recent silence was a result of something the neighbors had down. But, "there was no answer," she said. "I was just glared at and turned a back on. So I did try as best I could. But I don't know."

Towards the end of an otherwise thoughtful town hall, there was a single incident: James Eric Fuller, who was shot at the Safeway last week, allegedly made a threatening comment to another audience member, Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries. It is unclear whether Humphries heard Fuller and the two never engaged. According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Fuller used a cell phone to take a picture of Humphries and allegedly said, "You're dead."

Fifteen seconds after the conclusion of the town hall, law enforcement officials approached Fuller and led him to a side entrance. A moment later, Fuller could heard yelling, "What's the matter--with you--whores!" Fuller was charged with disorderly conduct and threatening and intimidation and taken to a local mental health facility, according to the Sheriff's Department.

In a statement Humphries said, "I was asked to give my thoughts on gun control laws and perhaps the passage of new laws. … A gentleman in the audience who I had never met before began booing and made the comment 'you're dead' while taking my picture. I was escorted from the location of the filming and spoken to by several deputies about the incident. I told them I was very hesitant to press any charges against this gentleman, but after they urged me to do so based on the gravity of the situation, and the lessons learned from the recent tragedy. I allowed them to proceed as recommended," he said.

"This is another sad piece to add to an already tragic set of events," Humphries added in the statement. "My hope continues to remain that we as a community be allowed the ability to heal and focus on those things that will best help our city and its citizens recover from this deadly tragedy," he said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events