The rows of flowers, teddy bears and inspirational posters that once lined a parking lot where six were killed and 13, including former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, were injured in a mass shooting have found a temporary home in a Tucson museum.
But four years after the shooting of which Giffords was a target, a permanent memorial has yet to sprout.
As Tucson pauses Thursday to remember the four-year anniversary of the shooting, a memorial to the event remains a work in progress.
Organizers with the January 8th Memorial a nonprofit foundation are in the final phase of selecting a designer. Foundation manager Michelle Crow said the completion target is in 2015. The memorial will be at El Presidio Park in downtown Tucson, but there are plans for other exhibits.
“People remember the day. They remember when they heard. They want to remember what happened that day, and they want to take part in an activity to commemorate that anniversary,” Crow said.
Several anniversary events are scheduled Thursday. University of Arizona Medical Center, where the victims were treated, holds a bell-ringing ceremony and moment of silence at 10:10 a.m. on each anniversary to mark the moment the shooting happened. Tucson’s mayor will do the same at a fire station.
Giffords will not participate in any public events this year. Last year, she went sky-diving to commemorate the anniversary.
The Jan. 8, 2011, shooting shook Tucson, a city that considers itself a tight-knit community despite its half-million residents. Among those killed was 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, whose face adorns many of the memorial messages left at the shooting site and at University of Arizona Medical Center. U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman were also killed. Former Rep. Ron Barber, who at the time worked for Giffords, was wounded but later took over Gifford’s seat in Congress.
Giffords still struggles to speak and walk. She has become the face of gun control, having founded Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. The gun control group raised millions for congressional candidates in the 2014 election, including Barber, who lost his seat to Republican Martha McSally. The group has garnered attention nationwide but has been able to do little to change gun laws.
“Four years ago, we lost friends, loved ones and neighbors in a senseless attack. We are proud of the compassion and strength that our community has shown in the face of shock and grief. Today, as we remember those that were lost, we stand together, and renew our commitment to work to protect other communities from tragedies like this,” Giffords said in a statement.
At the same time, the memorial efforts are underway.
The group has selected four finalists who will discuss their designs at public meetings in Tucson next week. Crow said she wants the community to be closely involved in the selection of the design and final memorial.
Items from memorials left at the site of the shooting and the hospital are on display in two rooms at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson. The exhibit began in October and ends Friday.
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