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Congressional shooting: January 8th survivors urge civility

Posted at 7:31 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 22:31:27-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The attack on Members of Congress just outside Washington, DC is a reminder of the attack on then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ Congress on Your Corner meeting on January 8th, 2011.

Giffords' Chief of Staff was among the wounded.

 Ron Barber went on to succeed her in Congress.

Now the retired Congressman hopes today's attack will not drive Members of Congress away from the public they promised to represent.

He says, "I immediately thought back to that morning and how horrific it was for all of us who were there and even more so, in some ways for our families."

When Ron Barber heard about the shooting he couldn't help but flash back to January 8th, 2011. 

He was one of 19 people shot as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held a meeting for constituents.

Six people died.

Now his experience as a mass shooting victim, gives him a special empathy for the families of the victims in Wednesday’s attack just outside DC.

"I also was thinking this morning about my wife, hearing the news about me being shot and the other people whose families were directly affected.  My first thought was to Congressman Scalise's wife and the relatives of the other people, the police officers and the young staffers who were shot."

When Barber succeeded Gabrielle Giffords in Congress he insisted on having his own Congress on Your Corner meeting to make the same point he makes today: that members of Congress must not be afraid to be out in public hearing from the people they represent.

"I wanted to make the point that we will not be deterred from being accessible, to our constituents because a sad and sick person took advantage of people at a Safeway so you have to be able to go amongst the people that you serve and you can't do it always surrounded by police."

Barber says he's happy to hear the Congressional Baseball Game will go on as scheduled to show Americans will not be defined by what happened this morning.

January 8th victim Pam Simon says victims of that attack can never really escape the memories but they hope we can escape the anger that drives people to kill.

She remembers hearing about the DC attack: "Everything floods back.  It takes you right back to January 8th and all the things that happened to us are now happening; the phone calls, the consternation, the media so it brings back all those feelings."

Pam Simon was working for then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when a deranged man, shot her, Giffords and 17 others.  Six of the shooting victims died.

 KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked her about this new attack on Members of Congress

 “Does this say something about the state of our country right now?” 

Simon replied: “That question was asked seven years ago as well and I guess if I have one message to those listening is that we need to take the rhetoric down.  Be careful what you post.  Think about what you say on social media.  Think about what you say to neighbors and friends and family. This is the time---every time is the time, this is the time we need to reach out to each other."

Giffords is a Democrat. Pam Simon remembers taking terrible calls when she worked in Giffords office.  She knows Republicans get hateful calls too and wishes people who disagree could do it with respect.