Tuc­son shoot­ing memo­rial site is ded­i­cated

7 years af­ter deadly at­tack, crowd gath­ers at city park

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Alden Woods

TUC­SON — On the day of the shoot­ing, the city mourned with pho­tos and flow­ers, at the site of the at­tack and the hos­pi­tal where vic­tims were treated.

Seven years passed. Some wounds healed. Others didn’t. Flow­ers wilted and peo­ple went home. The makeshift me­mo­ri­als came down, and there was noth­ing left to mark the mas­sacre that killed six peo­ple and wounded for­mer Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords.

As they healed, peo­ple en­vi­sioned a per­ma­nent memo­rial. They wanted a place where vis­i­tors could slip into still­ness. And on Monday, af­ter seven years of plan­ning com­mit­tees and fights for fund­ing, they gath­ered to ded­i­cate the ground on which it would stand.

“Look at what we did,” said Jim Click Jr., hon­orary co-chair of the January 8th Memo­rial Foun­da­tion’s cam­paign com­mit­tee. He stood in down­town Tuc­son’s El Pre­sidio Park, where the memo­rial will even­tu­ally stand. Gif­fords sat to his

right. “There’s noth­ing more im­por­tant than re­mem­ber­ing that event, re­mem­ber­ing this won­der­ful lady, the sur­vivors and the peo­ple who died.”

There was noth­ing to look at yet. Monday’s cer­e­mony was a ded­i­ca­tion of the site for the January 8th Memo­rial, a celebration that a $2.5 mil­lion fundrais­ing goal had been met and that work on it could be­gin.

The memo­rial’s fund­ing ap­peared in jeop­ardy last year, when a bill that would have set aside money for its con­struc­tion stalled in the Ari­zona Se­nate. A com­bi­na­tion of pub­lic and pri­vate donors raised enough money to start build­ing some­time this year.

Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be com­pleted by Jan. 8, 2020, the nine-year an­niver­sary of the shoot­ing.

Of­ten called “an em­brace,” the fin­ished memo­rial will guide vis­i­tors be­low the city, down gen­tle slopes on ei­ther side of a re­flect­ing pool. Noise will fade. Build­ings will dis­ap­pear.

Cir­cling around, vis­i­tors will end up in El Pre­sidio Park, fac­ing Tuc­son City Hall and the Pima County court­house. A bust of John F. Kennedy, an­other politi­cian shot in ser­vice, stands nearby.

“This is a place where peo­ple en­gage their elected of­fi­cials,” said for­mer Rep. Ron Bar­ber, Gif­fords’ dis­trict di­rec­tor in 2011 and one of the 13 peo­ple wounded in the shoot­ing. He is now pres­i­dent of the January 8th Memo­rial Foun­da­tion.

“That was what was hap­pen­ing on January 8, 2011,” he said. “Peo­ple came to meet their mem­ber of Congress, Gabrielle Gif­fords.”

Gif­fords, an Ari­zona Demo­crat, was hold­ing a con­stituent meet-and-greet at a Tuc­son-area Safe­way when a man ap­proached her and opened fire. Bul­lets struck 19 peo­ple, in­clud­ing Gif­fords. Six died.

The gun­man, Jared Lough­ner, was sen­tenced in 2012 to seven con­sec­u­tive life terms in prison.

Seven years af­ter the at­tack, peo­ple came to see Gif­fords again. Sur­vivors and vic­tims’ fam­ily mem­bers, elected of­fi­cials and Tuc­son res­i­dents filled ev­ery chair in a tent, then the space be­hind it, then a hill be­side it. A man from the To­hono O’odham Na­tion blessed the site and its vis­i­tors. Se­cu­rity and po­lice of­fi­cers sur­rounded the park.

“It’s a spe­cial day to­day,” memo­rial foun­da­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Crys­tal Kas­noff said, be­fore step­ping aside for a line of dig­ni­taries and sur­vivors. There were calls for gun safety laws and men­tal-health treat­ment, for re­mem­brance and heal­ing.

Tuc­son Mayor John Roth­schild told the crowd that he re­mem­bered ex­actly where he learned of the shoot­ing be­fore hur­ry­ing to the down­town fire sta­tion. Ev­ery year, Roth­schild rings a bell at 10:11 a.m., the ex­act mo­ment the shoot­ing be­gan.

Then Mark Kelly, the re­tired astro­naut, stood and helped his wife out of her seat. The crowd kept cheer­ing as Gif­fords, who was shot in the head, worked her way up the podium’s three steps. At the mi­cro­phone, she un­folded a piece of pa­per and be­gan to read.

“January 8, 2011, changed my life for­ever. And the lives of so many others,” Gif­fords said. “We honor those who lost, those who lost their lives and those who were hurt. And the lives of so many others.

“Tuc­son is strong. Tuc­son is my place. I love it a lot.”

A stand­ing ova­tion fol­lowed Gif­fords back to her seat as 10:11 a.m. drew near.

Two men took her place. North­west Fire Dis­trict Capt. Brian Kee­ley and Rev. Joe Fitzger­ald stood on ei­ther side of a small bell. Fitzger­ald spoke of democ­racy and hal­lowed ground. He asked for si­lence. Kee­ley wrapped a hand around the bell’s cord.

Then Fitzger­ald read the names of the dead.

“Christina-Tay­lor Green,” he said. Kee­ley rang the bell. Fitzger­ald moved down the list. “Dorothy Mor­ris. John Roll. Phyl­lis Sch­neck. Dor­wan Stod­dard. Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Zim­mer­man.”

The bell punc­tu­ated each name. And some­where in the distance, an­other bell rang, but in the park, no­body could hear it.

DAVID WAL­LACE/THE REPUB­LIC

For­mer U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords greets the crowd, in­clud­ing memo­rial foun­da­tion of­fi­cials Jim Click (from left) and Crys­tal Kas­noff, and Gif­fords’ hus­band, Mark Kelly.

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