University of Arizona professor Thomas Meixner, the head of the hydrology department, was shot and killed Tuesday on campus as students and staff scrambled to understand what was happening and what they should do to keep each other safe. 

While the UA and wider Tucson community reflects and grieves, this gun violence is now added to a list that includes the 2002 UA College of Nursing shootings in which three professors were killed by a student and the Jan. 8, 2011 mass shooting that killed six people and injured 18, including former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. 

Kathy Varin, left, with her daughter Rachael Varin, pay their respects at a memorial for Kathy’s colleague Thomas Meixner outside the John W. Harshbarger building on the University of Arizona campus Thursday, Oct. 6. Kathy is a business manager for the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department. Credit: Michael McKisson

In less than 24 hours, people who loved and learned from Dr. Meixner mourned for his loss, sent love to his wife and children, to his colleagues, friends and students, and to his beloved water science community. They took to social media to share stories about how a strong scientist so readily showed his heart as an educator and mentor who lived to help others. And by morning in Tucson, they’d shared photos of desert water refuges that they knew he’d love. They’d built a memorial with orchids, red and yellow roses and star-shaped sunflowers laid across the blue marker outside the John W. Harshbarger building, where Dr. Meixner did his work.

“I am utterly devastated by the loss of Prof. Thomas Meixner.  Beyond his professional contributions to hydrology, Tom was a father and an exemplary human being,” wrote Christopher Castro, a UA colleague and professor. “Praying (for) all who mourn, especially his family. I will miss you forever, my dear friend.”

Arizona Luminaria’s mission is to help people get the information they need to take action with stories that have context, heart and depth. So you won’t find a quick-take breaking news story here. We live in and love our communities and for now, we want to recognize the moment we find ourselves in yet again, elevate the voices of those involved and ask: What don’t we know about what happened and how can we find accountability, answers and solutions with you?

Please send us a note if you are moved to ask those questions as well.

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There is always more context and depth to weave into a story that shows local journalists care and are truly listening to you. There are ways to center the voices of those who have questions and those who have information. 

Mourning, grieving and consoling in Tucson often settled on how this moment of loss fits into the history and the future of saving lives and stopping gun violence.

Here are some voices from the community of faculty, staff, students and parents on the shooting, the response and the outpouring of love amid loss.

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Irene is an audience development expert and obsessed with reader-first journalism. She is a former Arizona Daily Star editor and was co-founder of #ThisIsTucson and led that team until July 2021. She is...