Strangers Linked by Tragedy in Tucson Rampage

Bill Hileman and Nancy Bowman meet Jan. 10, 2011, three days after the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.
Bill Hileman and Nancy Bowman meet Jan. 10, 2011, three days after the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.

TUCSON, Ariz. - The chaotic scene outside outside a Tucson supermarket where a gunman opened fire as Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents Saturday brought together victims and those desperate to help. Some just happened to be nearby, and as it turned out, it's a good thing they were.

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Special Section: Tragedy in Tucson

Strangers united by tragedy, inextricably linked by the events of Jan. 8, met Monday afternoon for the first time, "CBS Evening News" Anchor Katie Couric reports.

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Bill Hileman's wife Suzie had taken 9-year-old Christina Green to the "Congress On Your Corner" event.

"Christina was interested in politics and government and the Gabby event became known, and it was a natural to take a young girl to see a wonderful female role model," Bill Hileman said.

The Bowmans were grocery shopping Saturday morning. David Bowman's a doctor. Nancy Bowman's a nurse. When shots rang out, they ran to the scene.

"I was taking care of his wife, and she had dialed his number, and all I said was that she was in an accident and was being taken to UMC Hospital because I didn't want to say she'd been shot," said Nancy Bowman. "So this was the first time we had met him.

"It was just carnage," said Nancy Bowman. "There were people, 19 people at least, I guess, must have just been shot at point-blank because they were the ones that perished first."

David Bowman began to triage the wounded.

"My role was to assess pulse, blood pressure, talking," said David Bowman. "Was somebody injured, was somebody not so badly injured, ladies with hankerchiefs putting pressure on a chest wound on a man laying on the ground, going to the next person and watching, quite frankly, the individual acts of heroism with the victims helping each other."

But the image of a 9-year-old girl is something Nancy Bowman will never forget.

"Just pristine," said Nancy Bowman. "She was beautiful, not a mark, it didn't seem, on her."

Suzie Hileman, who was shot at least three times, tried to help the little girl from her neighborhood she had taken under her wing.

"I said, 'You know, Suzie, you need to just lay down, and we're taking care of Christina, but you need to take care of yourself too,'" said Nancy Bowman. "She had, I think, four gunshot wounds."

Suzie Hileman had surgery Saturday and will have surgery for her hip Tuesday.

"Her physical recovery is going to be near 100 percent eventually," said Bill Hileman. "I think we're all very concerned just about the emotional trauma of going through something so unlike any experience that we've ever had before. Then, of course, there's the ongoing concern of her role in taking Christina Green to this event and making sure that she doesn't fall into the trap of guilt that really she shouldn't- there's going to be dark moments, and it's absolutely unavoidable."

Christina's mother tried to lessen the Hilemans' pain by writing them a note Sunday morning.

"We got a lovely e-mail from Roxanna (Christina Green's mom) trying to make sure Suzie was not adopting a too guilty mind-set," said Bill Hileman. "Extremely generous. They're good friends, and they're wonderful people."

Meanwhile, the Bowmans saw both sides of humanity that day.

"You look at this 22-year-old man who slaughtered all these people, but you also look at all these people who stepped up and came over to help," said Nancy Bowman. "They walked into this massacre and said, 'What can I do to help?'"