Tucsonan Christin Gilmer is in South Africa working on medical research and says she feels lucky to experience the historic event of Nelson Mandela’s death.

“It’s lovely to see how much unity there is here,” she said. “People are hugging on the streets celebrating the achievements of this man and what the entire movement has done.”

Gilmer worked for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation in Tucson and has spent the last few months in the eastern cape of South Africa managing a research project on HIV for the University of Oxford.

Shortly after Mandela’s death, she said the streets were “shutting down a bit,” flags were flown at half staff, and there was a strange dichotomy between people being somber because a great leader was lost, and people celebrating the impact Mandela had on the entire world.

Gilmer has worked for the United Nations and the World Health Organization. She was an organizer for the “Angel Action” effort in Tucson to counter protest Westboro Baptist Church protesters at the funeral of victims of the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting, where six people were killed and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot.