Bill Nugent lives in the heart of Tucson and has done so for the better part of his 65 years. His family has lived here since before the first battles of the Civil War. After his mother passed away in 2000, he took charge of The Shanty on 9th Street, a bar belonging to his family for decades that he describes as "the way taverns were viewed 200 years ago; as a community center of the village."
At The Shanty, Nugent has developed a unique perspective on Tucson while mixing toddies and slinging beer. He's rubbed elbows with journalists and elected officials. He's developed friendships with several of them, including with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As such, he's been especially heartened in the last few days, as he has watched the populace of Tucson react to the tragic, mass-shooting last Saturday by coming together as a community instead of pointing the finger and lashing out.
Nugent told New Times that Tucson has been energized by the words of Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly. Blood drives were organized to support the victims wounded by Jared Loughner. Community food drives are even now working toward helping the less fortunate members of the community; a force of good inspired by a moment of evil.
"It's been interesting in a short amount of time that as shocked as people are, they have kept the focus on moving on in some way that is positive from this."
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Not that it's been easy. Nugent, for example, says his emotions have shifted and changed greatly since he first heard about Saturday's shooting.
"At first, I felt very frustrated that somehow the people who are moderate, the people who are trying to bring consensus to many issues in this world always seem to be a target," he said. "I think [Giffords] would say to me, 'This isn't who we are. We are better than this, and we will be better than this.'"
Ultimately what Nugent would like the rest of the country know about his town situated in southern Arizona is that it may be the site of a tragedy, but it is the home of a people focused on improving their state and themselves.
"The last month we've gotten such very negative publicity; it's hard to live in a state where public policy is unfair or unpassionate," he said. "Maybe [the tragedy] will open up the forum and allow us to find different answers than the ones we've been saddled with."