Jan 16, 2011

Arizona Safeway Workers Gather for Vigil

Journalist Megan Neighbor wrote a very moving account of the vigil held by Tuscon Safeway workers in Saturday's edition of The Arizona Republic:

As night fell, about 100 people emerged from the grocery store, red and white carnations in hand.

They held hands or wrapped their arms around one another, their heads low. The group stopped and gathered under the spot where a banner that read "Gabrielle Giffords United States Congress" had been hung six long days ago.

Their employees-only vigil Friday evening was the first time the workers had been together since last Saturday, the day a gunman opened fire outside their market.

It was the first time they had stood at the place where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fell. Six people died in the attack, and 13 were wounded. As they stood at the site, a rush of emotions swept over them, some employees said.

"I am so angry," said Laura Parker, a courtesy clerk at the store at Oracle and Ina roads. Parker was on break at Beyond Bread, about 75 yards from the Safeway storefront, at the time of the shooting.

"A lady came in hysterical and right then, we knew. ... We went over to the window, and there was blood everywhere."

Parker turned away, her voice full of emotion. As the vigil continued, employees slowly moved back into the store, and prayers were offered for the victims. Letters from other store managers expressing support were read.

"We are all like one big family," said Aggie Westendorf, a cashier and office clerk who has been a store employee for 13 years.

Then, a few employees emerged from the store again, this time with barricades wrapped in red and blue ribbons. They placed the barricades underneath the arch where Giffords and her staff stood as they greeted constituents a week ago. One by one, employees came out and set down their carnations, until red and white pedals blanketed the sidewalk near the barrier. The miniature memorial was adorned with a wreath.

>>> Read the rest of the story in The Arizona Republic.

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