Emotions Show As Relatives Speak Of Arizona Shooting Victims' Ordeals

January 11, 2011

Mark Memmott

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After doctors briefed reporters earlier today about the conditions of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and other survivors of Saturday's deadly rampage in Tucson, three family members of other victims stepped forward to talk and take some questions.

We're going to post some excerpts here, with audio. There's no need to elaborate. They spoke eloquently:

Bill Hileman: His wife, Susan Hileman, brought 9-year-old neighbor Christina Taylor Green to Rep. Giffords' meet-and-greet. Christina was interested in politics -- she had just been elected president of her school's student council. Susan Hileman wanted to introduce Christina to the congresswoman. They were holding hands as they stood in line.

Christina died after being shot. Susan Hileman, 58, was struck by three bullets and faces months of recovery. Bill Hileman says his wife hasn't yet been able tell him everything about what happened.

"Most of what Susie has  shared with me about the specifics are on the edges of a morphine-enduced haze," he said. "From time to time in moments of discomfort, things come out. ... I hear her in her semi-conscious ramblings screaming out 'Christina, Christina let's get out of here; let's get out of here! She keeps talking about the holding of hands and then the realization that she was on the ground and the bleeding was profuse."

As a social worker cautioned him, Bill Hileman said, "the toughest issue that was likely to be faced by Susie was dealing with what happened to Christina. ... My wife has worked ... in and with families that have dealt with terrible tragedies in her prior social-working career. And in her clearest-headed state she is quite understanding that this was the act of a mad man and that blame does no good for anybody. Unfortunately we're all human and we have dark moments where the inevitable occurs."

But Hileman wants his wife to know that no one -- including Christina's parents -- is faulting her. He has been in contact with the girl's parents, Hileman said, and yesterday he got together with John Green; Christina's dad. "We cried for about 10 minutes," Hileman said.

Angela Robinson: Her mother and stepfather were shot. Dorwin Stoddard, 76, died after shielding his wife as best he could. Mavy Stoddard was wounded and was holding her husband as he died.

Robinson, who along with her sister Penny Nelson spoke to the news media, said that "as dad lay dying, mom didn't know she'd been hurt." Asked about those moments, Robinson said that for her parents "it was a beautiful way to say 'good bye ... go home'." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.