TUCSON — The rows of flowers, teddy bears and inspirational posters that once lined a parking lot where a gunman killed six people and injured former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others have found a temporary home in a southern Arizona museum.
But as Tucson residents pause Thursday to remember the fourth anniversary of the shooting that targeted Giffords, a permanent memorial is still a work in progress.
Organizers with the January 8th Memorial, a nonprofit foundation, are in the final phase of selecting a designer. The foundation hopes to finish the memorial this year, manager Michelle Crow said. It 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 remembrance 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. 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 day.
“Four years ago, we lost friends, loved ones and neighbors in a senseless attack,” Giffords said in a statement. “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.”
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 the hospital. U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman were also killed. Former Rep. Ron Barber, who worked for Giffords at the time, was wounded but later took over her seat in Congress.
Jared Loughner was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting outside a grocery store.
Giffords, who was shot in the head, 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.
Meanwhile, 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.