Arizona shooting's impacts felt in Steamboat

Steamboat’s Sonja Macys a friend of Arizona congresswoman

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Sonja Macys

— The horrific shooting Satur­­day in Arizona has struck hearts in Steamboat Springs.

Sonja Macys, executive director of Yampatika, is a longtime friend of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, one of 20 people shot during a political meet and greet Giffords was hosting at a Tucson super­­market. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were killed. Giff­­ords was shot in the head and remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday. Jared Lough­ner, 22, is suspected in the shooting and in custody.

Macys said she met Giffords in 2001, when Macys became executive director of the Tucson Aud­­u­­bon Society and Giffords began serving in the Arizona state Legislature, before her election to Congress. Macys said her role with the Audubon Society was more politically oriented than her current role with Yampatika, creating significant interaction with Giffords at the state and national levels.

Macys and Giffords became close friends and kept in touch throughout the years, even after Macys moved to Steamboat in 2006. The friendship was close enough that Macys invited Giffords to her wedding in June 2008.

Macys also developed friendships with others involved in Saturday’s tragedy.

Saturday afternoon, Macys returned to her car on Rabbit Ears Pass after participating in an avalanche clinic, turned on her cell phone and saw numerous voice and text messages.

Many were from friends in Arizona or with Arizona ties. Some messages, Macys said, were telling her to turn on a news broadcast right away.

Some initial reports of the massacre said Giffords had been killed.

“I was bursting into tears,” Macys said about the drive back to Steamboat.

After several days of “watching CNN nonstop” and talking with friends and loved ones, Macys said Tuesday that she still was waiting for definitive news about other friends injured in the shootings that have sent shockwaves across the country.

Steamboat Springs City Coun­­cil President Cari Her­ma­­cinski, who co-hosts a political talk radio show out of a Yampa Street studio, said The Cari and Rob Show’s caller volume has doubled this week, with a flood of calls from local and regional listeners wanting to talk about the shootings and their ramifications.

“There’s so much that’s not right about what happened,” Macys said, sitting in her office on Weiss Drive. “It’s captivating in a very negative way.”

Macys said in her experience, the Arizona Legislature was filled with a high-intensity mix of personalities and ideologies that often fueled strong emotions. Giffords navigated skillfully and intelligently through it all, Macys said.

“We couldn’t even get her angry,” Macys remembered with a smile. “She was very conciliatory and very diplomatic. … I’ve never seen her speak in a way that’s disrespectful or belittling.”

Macys expressed hope for her friend’s recovery.

“If anybody can pull through a bullet to their brain, Gabby can,” Macys said. “She is the most determined person you’d ever meet.”

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