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Tucson: Remembering the Victims One Year Later

Safeway Memorial in Tucson-1/8/12--Photo: Pamela Burke

Memorial in front of Safeway in Tucson/1-10-12

Photos and Story by Pamela Burke/January 15, 2012

It’s been just over a year since the terrible incident at the Safeway supermarket in Tucson where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was so brutally shot. Last year we visited the city at this time to see the incredible outpouring from its residents to honor the Congresswoman and all the victims.

A Safeway in Tucson by Tom Zoellner It was time to return to see what had changed and how the city was remembering those who got caught up in the unimaginable horror of that day.

Tom Zoellner, the author of the new book A Safeway in Arizona, describes what happened as “shaking us to the core.” This award-winning journalist spoke recently at Changing Hands bookstore in Phoenix about his attempts to get to the bottom of “the Event” as it’s been called and to paint a loving and accurate portrait of his home state.

He says that the folks gathered in front of the market that morning “had been ordinary people up until this moment. Now their names and movements were being written in red pen.”

Here are a few moving tributes and markers by and for the people of Tuscon that I saw during the anniversary week…

Kindness Bench outside of "Ben's Bells" Tucson: Photo--Pamela Burke

This is what I call a “kindness bench,” which is covered in personalized tiles honoring people who have inspired kindness. It was built by students two years ago in collaboration with Ben’s Bells, a project started in 2002 by Jeannette Maré to honor the memory of her two-year-old son Ben who died suddenly.

It and several others sit outside of the studio where the bells you see below are made for the sole purpose of spreading hope and kindness. Early in the morning of the anniversary more than 1,000 of these handmade symbols began to be distributed throughout the city.

Each one is made with the help of ten people. Tags are attached with the message: “Take it home, hang it and remember to spread kindness.” The idea is spreading nationally and internationally as more ceramic studios open. Although the project started long before last year, it has grown and become part of the city’s fabric since the shooting incident.

Ben's Bells hanging in studio in Tucson: Photo--Pamela Burke

A few miles away you can find a special tribute honoring the memory of Gabriel Zimmerman, Giffords’ aide and outreach director, who received mortal wounds that day. The plaque and photo of Gabe are in a prominent place in the Congresswoman’s office.

Tucson memorial to Gabriel ZimmermanThe photo caption reads:

Gabriel Matthew Zimmerman was a colleague and friend.

He was bright, fearless and loving. He cared about people, ideas and justice and was committed to his role as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ constituent supervisor and community outreach director.

On January 8, 2011 he was killed in the line of duty. In his short time on earth, Gabe taught us about compassion and commitment.

He is loved and missed.

The massive display of flowers, balloons, notes, flags, and photos is long gone from the University Medical Center. Items gathered from there were reported to fill 60 boxes and may be used in a future permanent memorial. But on a corner further north, in front of that Safeway in Arizona, is a grouping of boulders carefully placed in a once terrifying space to honor the victims of the senseless shooting. Flowers and other tributes are not far away.

A Safeway spokesperson standing nearby told me, “This memorial is not about us. It’s about the community. There’s a sense of connectivity here that you’re not going to find anywhere else. ”

The granite boulders stand as a reminder…

Safeway Boulders for the 1/8/11 Tragedy: Photo--Pamela Burke

Six sturdy rocks surround one large one to remember those who were killed…

Victims Memorial at Safeway in Tucson: Photo: Pamela Burke

A small plaque mounted on the largest boulder honors all the victims…

The placque at Safeway Tucson honorin victims: Photo--Pamela Burke

Flowers and a newspaper nearby evoke memories of that unforgettable day…

Remembering Safeway victims Tucson 1/10/12--Photo Pamela Burke

A poinsettia accompanies another headline…

Poinsettia and newspaper headline Tucson 1/10/12: Photo--Pamela Burke

Six crosses and a candle appear across the busy street close-by…

6 crosses near Safeway in Tucson 1/10/12--Photo-Pamela Burke

And a sign near the shooting site sends a message of hope.

Tucson Safeway's new memorial was erected 1/10/12: Photo: Pamela Burke

Zoellner ends his book with the spirit of renewal as well, writing, “The example Gabrielle set on the morning of January 8–reaching out to strangers at the fringe of a Safeway–is not a bad place to begin again.”

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Top 10: Giffords Walks Trail in Memory of Slain Staffer

Rep. Giffords and Mark Kelly at Gabe Zimmerman Trail Head, Jan 8, 2012

Giffords Walks Trail in Memory of Slain Staffer: Jaimee Rose–azcentral.com–1/8/11

Chief of Staff Pia Carusone On Working For Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Pia Carusone on the job with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona/2010

Pia Carusone on the job with Rep. Giffords in Arizona/2009

UPDATE 4/12/13: Giffords Ex-Chief of Staff Back on Team to Fight for Gun Control

UPDATE: 10/24/12–The Hill’s 25 Women to Watch

UPDATE: 12/4/11–Giffords Aide Pia Carusone Takes Command of Office

By Pamela Burke/April 7, 2011

Twitter: @piacarusone

Right now Pia Carusone has one tough and demanding job in Washington, DC, as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ Chief of Staff. Since the Tucson tragedy in January when Giffords was critically wounded by a gunshot to the head, Pia’s office has been handling the needs of the people her boss represents in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

Along with this, the staff has been dealing with the loss of one of their own, the steady barrage of media questions, and the public’s concern about Gabby’s condition.

“The experience has been the most difficult and emotional one that I’ve ever gone through.” Pia

An added daily pressure is the historic final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour at the end of the month commanded by Gabby’s husband, Capt. Mark Kelly.

So far Pia’s holding steady. This 30-year-old keeps a low profile and gives most of the credit to the incredible group she and Giffords work with in DC and Tucson.

Rep. Giffords, Pia, and their Washington DC staff

Rep. Giffords, Pia, and the Washington, DC staff/2010

After seeing Giffords’ remarkable day by day recovery, I was looking forward to talking to Pia about dealing with the stress of her job, holding the office together, and the strength of her courageous boss… [Read more…]

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PERSONS OF THE DAY–KELLY O’BRIEN/REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY

Gabe Zimmerman and Kelly O'Brien

Gabe Zimmerman and Kelly O'Brien/The Yuma Sun

Two women living at opposite ends of the country. …

Both have one thing in common this week…

They want new gun legislation. Their plea is to make it illegal to buy extended magazines for handguns.

First to Arizona and Kelly O’Brien, the fiancee of Gabe Zimmerman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ staff member, who was killed in the Tucson tragedy. Who can forget those 19 victims of gunfire, fired upon within 15 seconds a month ago.

Kelly O'Brien on Good Morning America

Kelly O'Brien on GMA

This week Kelly stepped forward out of the shadow of the recent horror to make a plea. In an exclusive interview with George Stephanopolous of Good Morning America here on this link, she said she is supporting a new state bill, HB 2711, that would in essence reduce the amount of bullets in a magazine to ten.

She reminded George that Jared Loughner was stopped when he ran out of bullets. “I believe, even if not Gabe, other people could have been saved that day,” she said.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy

And now to the East Coast and New York. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy has separately been working on a bill, H. R. 308, targeting the same high capacity magazine clips. This bill would include banning the manufacture and importation of new magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

You’ll see Rep. McCarthy speaking out about gun control at the Brady Center in the above video in 2009. She’s been pursuing this type of legislation for 14 years. She talks movingly on her website about her experience with senseless violence.

“I know what it’s like to have tragedy brought to your life in a split second by a madman with high-capacity ammunition magazines,” she said. Her husband was killed and son seriously wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.

Two women. Two different tragedies involving guns. Will they be heard?

One blogger’s reaction to Kelly: “I hold out little hope of success for passage in this radical Republican dominated Arizona Legislature.”

One website’s reaction to Rep. McCarthy: H. R. 308 would severely violate the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.

These women have tough mountains to climb. Let’s follow their fight.

For more information:

Office of Rep. Carolyn McCarthy

Office of Rep. Steve Farley who proposed HB 2711

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