UPDATE 4/19/13: Roxanna just returned from Washington, D. C., disappointed and disgusted but not surprised by the recent vote rejecting expanded background checks. She told TWE that she was not feeling defeated and would not give up. She said, “We will continue our work for common sense regulation.”
By Stacey Gualandi/April 11, 2013
Roxanna Green never imagined a life in the public eye but when her 9-year-old daughter, Christina-Taylor, was killed on that fateful day in Tucson, Arizona, two years ago, she became a voice for gun control. This mother was thrust into the spotlight after the horrific shootings that left six people dead and 13 wounded including Representative Gabby Giffords.
“Losing a child is the worst thing that could ever happen to you, especially in the way we lost Christina.. .I’m going to make sure her legacy lasts forever and that her dreams will come true through giving and through the foundation.” Roxanna Green
Her book, As Good As She Imagined (Worthy Publishing), celebrates her daughter, now known to many as the “Angel of Tucson.” Roxanna has found the courage to move forward and joined me from Tucson to talk about her daughter’s life and legacy on The Women’s Eye Radio Show. Here is an excerpt from that interview…
STACEY: It’s been over two years now and I’m sure people are constantly reminding you of that terrible incident. In your book you say, “I wanted to do what Christina-Taylor would have wanted me to do and make her proud and happy.” Do you think you have achieved that?
ROXANNA: I certainly hope so. I’ve gotten positive comments from those who have read my book. My goal was to make it an inspirational book of hope, something that people of any age could read and find a sense of hope whether they’ve lost a child, a job, a home or gotten a divorce.
I want them to know this isn’t the end and that the best is yet to come. Use your faith, family and friends and find strength with those people. My advice is to carry on and do something good.
STACEY: We never think of something so tragic happening happening to anyone. How are you feeling about where you have come in such a short amount of time?
ROXANNA: I have good days and bad. Losing a child is the worst thing that could ever happen to you, especially in the way we lost Christina. We were robbed of her life. It’s very hard but forming the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation, writing the book and just giving back has helped tremendously.
I’m going to make sure her legacy lasts forever and that her dreams will come true through giving and through the foundation. So I feel happy with everything we’ve done in only two years. The foundation’s only been up and running a little over a year, and we’ve given away over half a million dollars to programs for youth here in southern Arizona.
STACEY: Do the memories of her sustain you?
ROXANNA: The nine years she was on this earth with us were precious and wonderful. She was always happy. Obviously we wish she was still here with us and living a full and meaningful life. She really accomplished so many things for such a young girl in her short period of time. Whenever I’m down, I’m grateful that I had such a wonderful daughter and that she did so much good in her short nine years.
“From day one she was very mature for her age, very intelligent and very giving. She was way beyond a nine-year-old third grade level. If she had survived, she would have been a star. “
STACEY: She did more than five nine-year-olds. It was interesting the way she came into the world. She was born on 9-11. She was photographed to be part of a book commemorating 50 children who were born on that day. It seems like there was some kind of purpose that she was to serve. Do you feel that there was something special she was supposed to do on earth?
ROXANNA: Yes. From day one she was very mature for her age, very intelligent and very giving. She was way beyond a nine-year-old third grade level. If she had survived, she would have been a star. She always told me ever since she could talk that she was going to be a star someday. When I talk to her in heaven, I always say, well, you are.
STACEY: You say in the book that she always wanted to make a difference.
ROXANNA: She liked to go to soup kitchens and orphanages; she liked to collect toys and clothing for the Salvation Army. At that age, that’s something you really have to encourage your children to do, but that was the kind of person she was. She was just very mature for her age.
STACEY: She’s now known as the “Angel of Tucson.” Is that something that happened organically?
ROXANNA: I don’t know where that came from. Obviously, John and I did not name her that. We would never say that. We are honored that people call her that. It’s obviously a compliment.
STACEY: The title of your book was actually from President Obama’s speech when he spoke at the State of the Union very shortly after the shootings. He said he wanted the world to be what Christina-Taylor imagined it was.
ROXANNA: I took the title from his speech. She was a young and innocent little child. She was so patriotic, so proud; she had so much hope. I think that he wanted the country to be like young people think it is… that our country can be the best.
At that time we were just coming out of a recession and even now, he’s still trying to make it the best. I thought it would be a great title with the message that we can just all come together and make it the best. We all want common things: peace, love, and for our children to be safe…that would be for everybody as good as he or she imagined.
STACEY: This whole issue of gun control has come to the forefront. Do you feel like finally the issue is being addressed wholeheartedly?
ROXANNA: Yes, I’m very happy that President Obama and Congress are finally going to do something about this horrible epidemic we have in our country. I support him 100 percent. People ask why didn’t we do it before. I think it’s a very difficult issue. We’re just coming out of a recession. Many people don’t have jobs. So I’m just very pleased to support him in his efforts. I’m very confident that something will be done.
STACEY: How is your son, Dallas, doing? Is it difficult for him?
ROXANNA: He’s doing as well as can be expected. He loved his sister very much; they were very close. So it’s been hard for him but I’m really proud of him. He’s an A student, plays baseball and is involved with the foundation and helping others.
Luckily, children are very resilient. He’s okay but he has his sad times as well and misses her very much. It’s quiet around our house without her. She was a social butterfly and loved to sing and dance around.
“Whenever we are having a hard time, we just pray. That works for us. I’m so fortunate and grateful that we did have this faith prior to the tragedy.”
STACEY: How does one maintain faith when going through something like this? It seems like one would lose faith when their child is taken this way.
ROXANNA: I can only speak for myself and my family. We’ve always had a strong faith. We lost my mother unexpectedly the year before. We relied on our faith, church, friends and family. Whenever we are having a hard time, we just pray. That works for us.
I’m so fortunate and grateful that we did have this faith prior to the tragedy. I really don’t know where we’d be or how we’d be able to have the foundation, write the book, or how my husband, John, would be able to go back to work so quickly, without it.
STACEY: Your role now seems to be to reach out and help people who are suffering just like you. Unfortunately after Newtown, so many families are in dire need of support. Did you feel compelled to go to Newtown?
ROXANNA: Yes, I got a lot of my support from faith and friends who came forward after the tragedy. They had lost children and offered advice. Just giving hugs was important. I remember that was the best counseling of all.
Whenever I hear of something tragic, I think that unfortunately I am two years in already, maybe I can be of some comfort. Maybe I can reach out and help people.
“We just wanted to tell them we loved and supported them and prayed for them every day.”
STACEY: When was the first time you went to Newtown?
ROXANNA: It was three or four days after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Then I went again at the beginning of this year with Pam Simon, who was a survivor of January 8. We went to give an angel to all the families and first responders and teachers who were affected. We have these beautiful angels that we sell on our website.
We had a fundraiser and made enough to give each one of the families one. We just wanted to tell them that we loved and supported them, and that we prayed for them every day. We told them that it will get better with time, but you’ll always have a hole in your heart. We want this little angel to be with them so that they could remember their loved one forever.
STACEY: You did a Public Service Announcement for the Demand a Plan organization. What is the focus for that advocacy work?
ROXANNA: I’m encouraging everyone to visit demandaplan.org and sign their name and ask Congress to do something about gun violence. We want to support universal background checks, to make gun trafficking a federal crime, to do something to help our flawed mental health care system.
We don’t want to take guns away. We are gun owners. That’s not what we’re saying. We just want sensible gun control so we can save lives. It should be bipartisan.
We should be able to reach some kind of compromise because what we’re doing right now is not working. I don’t want to see another family go to the State of the Union with a ribbon and sit next to Michelle Obama because they lost a daughter.
STACEY: Is this work helping you through your own personal grief on some level?
ROXANNA: I think it is. I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing it because it’s just heartbreaking for our entire country every time one of these events happens. I don’t want to ever see anything like this happen again. There has to be something we can do.
I believe in the Second Amendment, but we have to improve our flawed mental health care system. There are people out there who should not be embarrassed to get help. I want to encourage people who have a member of their family heading down that path and they see red flags, please try to get that person help. I wouldn’t want anyone having to live with someone in the family having killed six or twenty-six people.
STACEY: Is there advice you could give about starting over when something so tragic happens?
ROXANNA: The only advice I could offer is that if you are a person of faith like we are, that really helps. At first you want to hide your head and stay in your room. You hope it all disappears.
But if you welcome people into your life even if they’re just sitting there offering food or a hug, that will help you and heal you in so many different ways.
STACEY: Do you feel that you are finding some kind of peace now on some level?
ROXANNA: I feel that through her foundation and all the wonderful people I’ve met, I find healing and peace. If we can save one life, then all the work we have done will be worth it so that Christina and the Newtown children and all the others will not have died in vain.
I’m for peace and compromise and I hope and pray that everyone gets on board. It’s not going to happen with just the survivors shouting from their soapboxes. Everyone has to get involved because it could happen to anyone. Christina Taylor was a fighter.
STACEY: She certainly was. Thank you so much. Continued success in all you do, Roxanna. We end this excerpt with a photo of “The Freedom’s Angel of Steadfast Love” sculpture made by Lei Hennessy-Owen out of wreckage from all three 9/11 sites. It stands 9 feet 11 inches tall and was installed in Christina-Taylor’s honor at Green Field where she played baseball.
Lead and family photo taken by Jon Wolf, 2010