Randomly caught in a political massacre by a troubled 22-year-old gunman Saturday, six victims who died at a Tucson, Ariz., “Congress on Your Corner” event had been brought together for one thing: to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D). Some came to air grievances, some to shake her hand, and still others—like 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green—to learn more about their country’s government. But whether they agreed or disagreed with Giffords’s politics, whether they were young student council members or veteran federal judges, they all met the same untimely fate.
Judge John Roll: Arizona’s chief U.S. district judge, Roll, 63, was renowned nationwide as “a wise jurist who selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction, as attorney and judge, for more than 35 years,” according to a statement by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. But his tenure wasn’t without controversy: At the heart of the state’s heated immigration battle, Roll received hundreds of death threats in February 2009 for allowing a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher to go forward. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called Roll’s death an unfortunate consequence of being in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” since Roll had merely stopped by the community event to shake hands with Giffords, who was a friend of his. Read more about Roll’s life and the outpouring of condolences from those affected by his service here.
Christina-Taylor Green: Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor was a literal “Face of Hope,” featured as one of 50 children born on September 11, 2001. In a heartbreaking tale, she had come to meet Giffords so she could “ask questions about how she could help and to learn more about politics in our country,” according to her mother, Roxanna Green. Christina-Taylor, whose classmates had recently elected her to the student council, had aspirations of someday going into politics, but her tenacity was already in full force: She was also a dancer, swimmer, community volunteer, and the only girl on an otherwise all-boys Little League baseball team. “She was interested in everything,” her mother said. “She got a guitar for Christmas, so her next thing was learning to play guitar.”
Gabriel Zimmerman: The newly engaged Zimmerman, 30, was an aide to Giffords and the mastermind behind the Tucson meet-and-greet. The former social worker found his passion in 2006, when he joined Giffords’s campaign and began working directly with her constituents as the director of community outreach. “It was a good career for him,” said his mother, Emily Nottingham. “He’s always been interested in government and politics, and it’s a good mix of social service and policy.” Though his devotion to his job often meant long hours in the office, he found respite in reading and running marathons. Zimmerman’s wedding to Katie O’Brien was scheduled for 2012.
Phyllis Schneck: Schneck, a 79-year-old homemaker, was an unlikely attendee at an event held by the Democrat Giffords -- she was a Republican and not especially politically active. But Schneck had an interest in border control, where she happened to agree with Giffords 100 percent. Schneck’s daughter, B.J. Offutt, speculated that her mother attended the meet-and-greet to commend Giffords on her stance. A widow since 2006, Schneck was actively involved in her church and loved to cook and read -- “a frustrated librarian,” Offutt called her. But, Offutt said, she devoted the bulk of her time to her three children, seven grandchildren, and great-granddaughter.
Dorwin Stoddard: Eyewitness accounts of Stoddard’s death are the stuff of heroism. When the gunman began firing into the crowd, Stoddard leapt in front of his wife Mavy to shield her. His effort was not in vain: While injured, Mavy is expected to make a full recovery. Stoddard, a 76-year-old retiree, was a staple at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. According to the church’s pastor, Mike Nowak, Stoddard and his wife were the “lifeblood” of the 140-member congregation.
Dorothy “Dot” Morris: Morris attended the meet-and-greet alongside her staunchly Republican husband George, who friends speculate wanted to “hash out issues” with Giffords. When the line of fire began, George tried, unsuccessfully, to save Morris, losing his high school sweetheart and wife of more than 50 years. A 76-year-old retired homemaker and secretary, Morris spent her time traveling cross-country with her husband in the couple’s motor home and entertaining friends at their mountaintop “dream house,” a friend said. She and George had two daughters and a granddaughter, all of whom live in their home state of Nevada.