When folklorist James "Big Jim" Griffith launched Tucson Meet Yourself, a folk traditions festival in 1974, he sought to gather the loose ends of the burgeoning southwestern city in a celebration of its diversity and mutual interests. The downtown festival flourishes a generation later; but large parts of the greater city of Tucson, defined by many for its fraying edges of suburban desert sprawl and strip malls, have also unraveled into transient, segregated and anonymous enclaves where few people will know or ever meet each other.
In 2009, a study commissioned by the Center for the Future of Arizona found that only 12 percent of surveyed residents in the state agreed that "people in our communities care about each other."That all changed, at least for a while, on January 8th, 2011, when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner stepped out of a taxi in front of a Safeway supermarket on the northwest suburban edge of the city and unloaded an estimated 32-rounds of bullets from an extended magazine clip once banned under the Violent Crime and Control Law Enforcement Act. The story of his derangement is well known now. His target was 41-year-old US Rep. Gabby Giffords, who he managed to shoot in the head; Loughner killed six people and injured 18 other citizens before he was wrestled to the ground and disarmed.