Within minutes, his phone was buzzing. Friends were texting.
It was Saturday, Jan. 8, in Tucson, Ariz., and a gunman had just shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in the head and killed six people at a “Congress on Your Corner” at a Safeway less than a mile from where Oneonta’s Jason Curley was staying.
Curley, Hartwick College music professor, was back in southern Arizona – he had spent six years there while earning his master’s at the University of Arizona – recruiting during the college’s January Off-Campus Program for the Hartwick Summer Music Festival.
During those years, Curley had often performed on the French horn in a brass quartet at the Giffords’ fundraisers, first for City Council, then for Congress. A friend of his, Brad Holland, headed the quartet (and was also the Realtor who sold Giffords her house.)
“She’s just wonderful,” Curley said the other day, back in Oneonta for the spring semester, “an absolutely glowing personality.”
The day she was shot, he took his French horn to the lawn of the University Medical Center, where she was being treated, to play her favorites – “Strauss, Reicha. She liked 19th-century Romantics” – as bouquets and other tributes piled up nearby.
In his half-dozen years in Tucson, Curley often read of shootings and multiple shootings in the local press, but only the worst made national headlines – in 2002, for instance, when a failing nursing student shot three of his teachers.
“The gun laws in Arizona are so relaxed,” he sawid. “There are no significant background checks.”