GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. — Edith Upson Smith learned how to drive at 30, but she learned how to fly when she was just 18 years old.
She was one of just over two thousand women who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, also known as WASP, during World War II.
The WASP were the first women to fly America's military aircraft, according to the National WASP WWII Museum.
At Frederick Army Airfield in Oklahoma, Smith flew planes from the factory out to the field, transported officers across bases, did test-piloting and taught some of the men how to fly.
"Some of them liked like that, some of them didn't," says Smith's daughter, Keith Rubin. "This was back in the forties."
Despite serving in the armed forces, the women in the program weren't granted military status until 1977.
"It was sort of under the radar. Nobody knew about it, and nobody appreciated it," says Rubin. "It was a pretty amazing program. It freed up the men to go overseas and fly. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to."
In 2010, the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Smith's daughter says, her mother's bravery is part of what makes her story so special.
"She did this after she became a widow. Her husband had been a bomber pilot and was killed, but she went on," says Rubin. "She was so passionate about flying, that she still went out and did this."
To honor Smith and celebrate her turning 99, a group of female pilots, known as The Ninety-Nines, did a flyover in Green Valley Sunday morning.
"This a chance to honor women who wanted to serve their country. Because of the WASP members, we now have women fighter pilots, astronauts, commercial airline pilots and instructors. These women paved the way for women pilots today," says Pamela Rudolph of The Rio Colorado 99's Chapter. "Edith is an aviation pioneer, and we want to honor her on her 99th birthday. These women are a national treasure. Edith is one of them, and we want to celebrate her by performing a flyover."
The pilots met in Tucson, before flying over I-19 to Green Valley where Smith lives.
Originally posted on KGUN9 August 21, 2020.
A sorority house at The University of Arizona is under quarantine after six live-in members tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent out to the Alpha Phi Beta Epsilon chapter.
The email says, in compliance with the Pima County Health Department and The University of Arizona asking Alpha Phi to limit contact, members who don't live in the house will not be allowed inside until September 7.
It goes on to say, "The UA SAFER team is working with the Pima County Health Department and will be attempting to reach out to anyone testing positive and people whom they have had contact."
In the email, members are asked to answer calls from UA SAFER and Pima County Health Department regarding contact tracing. That request is followed by the statement, "They know it is an inconvenience and a lot to ask, but also trust you to act as leaders and examples for others on campus."
When asked about UA SAFER's involvement with tracking these cases, officials from The University of Arizona shared the following statement:
"The University of Arizona assists students, including those living off campus, who have concerns about COVID-19 infections by offering antigen testing, which provides results within 2 hours. We also assist with mitigation efforts for students."
When asked about the outbreak at the Alpha Phi house, campus officials told us, "As you know our sororities and fraternities are only affiliates of the University. All questions about their houses should be sent to them directly."
We have reached out to Alpha Phi Beta Epsilon and members of the sorority's executive board for comment. They have not responded.
Originally posted on KNXV August 30, 2020.
Red Cross of Southern Arizona volunteers head to Louisiana to help people affected by Hurricane Laura
TUCSON, Ariz. — Sixteen Southern Arizona American Red Cross volunteers are already on the ground, helping people in the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Laura. At least five more are headed to Louisiana to join them in their efforts.
Those volunteers will focus on logistics and shelter relief, which means making sure the thousands of people who are displaced, have a safe place to stay.
"If you can imagine yourself being removed from your home unexpectedly, you would want the help of as many people you could get," says MaRico Tippett, a board member with The Red Cross of Southern Arizona. "If people want to volunteer, we highly encourage it."
Usually, individual Red Cross volunteers will spend about two weeks in disaster areas, focusing on sheltering, feeding and providing emotional support to victims. According to Tippett, the Red Cross will stay in the disaster area for as long as they are needed there.
Tippett says the Red Cross can use all the support it can get, through monetary donations, volunteering and blood drives.
Before going to disaster areas, volunteers participate in an extensive training to assist in the disaster area, as well as additional training to make sure they are 'COVID compliant.'
"Our volunteers have been training for this type of response and are ready to help those affected by Hurricane Laura," says Kara Egbert, Board Chair of the Southern Arizona Chapter.
The Red Cross says it has mobilized almost 1,000 trained disaster workers to support relief efforts both on the ground and virtually.
If people are looking for a lower-commitment way to help, the Red Cross is also asking for blood donations.
"We need more people to step up. We need people to go and donate blood," says Tippet. "The Red Cross is responsible for about 40 percent of the nation's blood supply."
Blood donations organized from the Red Cross, were sent to hospitals near areas impacted by Hurricane Laura ahead of time, so they were prepared for higher demand during the hurricane.
People can make a monetary donation at the American Red Cross' website, or text 'LAURA' to 90999 to donate $10.
Originally posted on KGUN9 August 30, 2020.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Emma Sinex was in the middle of sound editing her short film, 'Barren,' when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"We were all a little bit frustrated and worried about being able to record the sound that we needed and get things edited exactly the way we wanted," says Sinex.
With support from the University of Arizona, Sinex's short film and 13 others from recent UArizona grads were completed and premiered at the 'I Dream In Widescreen' film festival.
Even though the event was virtual this year, instead of at Fox Tucson Theatre where it was supposed to be held, Sinex is staying positive about the experience.
"I was looking forward to this much more than commencement.This is kind of like our graduation. But the opportunities that we have to reach a much bigger audience, because this is virtual, is something we all appreciate," says Sinex."I think this has given us first hand experience of how the industry is changing and adapting to new circumstances, and I think that makes us an asset."
The 22-year-old from Tucson wrote, directed and produced the short film 'Barren.'
"I put so much of myself into this project, and worked so hard to tell the story I wanted to tell, while being both accurate and respectful to those who have dealt with this issue," says Sinex. "In the end, I feel like the story has come to life exactly as I intended."
'Barren' tells the story of a couple adjusts to life postpartum. Sinex's inspiration to make the film came from her family's own experiences.
"I was meant to have an older sister," says Sinex. "I heard a lot about her growing up, so it’s a topic that I know very well and was surprised to not see it covered very often."
The filmmaker is currently still in Tucson, where she's working as a freelance editor. She plans to eventually make her way west and work in Los Angeles.
You can watch 'Barren' and the other films showcased at this year's 'I Dream In Widescreen" online.
Originally posted on KGUN9 August 9, 2020.
NOGALES, Ariz. — The Arizona Department of Health Services reported negative two new COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County Sunday.
Santa Cruz County Manager Jennifer St. John says there are a couple of reasons why the county would report a negative number. Most commonly, it happens if someone is put in the system twice or if someone moved to a new county and not updated their address yet.
"The usual answers are that there are duplicate entries or a case that was originally assigned to Santa Cruz County, turns out to belong to another county," says St. John. "Our health department checks the added cases each day and reports any errors to the State. I’m sure there could be other reasons that a county has negative cases but in my experience, those are the two top reasons."
St. John adds that Santa Cruz County is working to make testing more accessible. Last week, the county launched its testing blitz.
This weekend, the testing blitz continued. St. John tells KGUN9 that between two sites, one in Rio Rico and one in Patagonia, a total of 985 tests were completed Friday and Saturday.
According to St. John, those tests will most likely be included on the state website by Thursday or Friday.
"At the earliest, we could start putting in the results tomorrow," says St. John. "We put them in over the next three or four days as we receive the results, download them, verify them, and our priority is calling the individuals that got tested."
As of Sunday, Santa Cruz County has reported a total of 2,608 COVID-19 cases out of 8,741 tests. About a quarter of tests in the county have come back positive.
Originally posted on KGUN9 August 2, 2020.
Aubrey Gelpieryn is a journalist currently in New York. She enjoys writing about music, politics and current events.