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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Vigil honors Giffords, shooting victims

Jim O’Rourke
Jim O’Rourke / Arizona Daily Wildcat A one year anniversary memorial service was held to remember those who were effected by the Jan. 8 shootings on the UA Mall on Sunday. Among those who spoke were Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly and Dr. Peter Rhee, M.D.

Thousands gathered on the UA Mall in a demonstration of compassion and community to honor the lives that were lost during the shooting on Jan. 8, 2011.

Exactly one year ago, Tucson was shocked when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a “Congress on Your Corner” event, wounding 13 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killing six. The “Remembering January 8th” candlelight vigil was one of many memorial events that took place across Tucson. The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the University of Arizona Medical Center hosted the event.

Speakers included Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, among others. The Tucson Symphony Orchestra and local band Calexico played music for the event.

A full moon illuminated the Mall as members of the Tucson community, both young and old, poured onto the campus. Volunteers wandered through the crowd distributing white “Remember 1.8.11” wristbands. Cardboard boxes filled with complimentary glow sticks lined the sidewalks.

When Giffords stepped onto to the stage, the crowd erupted with applause.

“It’s nice to see all these people out here because I remember the weeks right after the shooting happened and it seemed like nothing would ever get better again,” said Madelaine Archie, a recent graduate from the UA School of Journalism and former Giffords intern. “Now, a year has passed and it seems like Gabby’s going to recover and go back to work, and it’s like there’s hope.”

The overarching theme of the vigil was “honoring the spirit of Tucson,” which Rothschild described as “united, compassionate, one million strong.” Tucson’s strength and unity in the wake of the shooting has inspired the entire world, he said.

The secretary of state spoke in the place of Gov. Jan Brewer, who could not attend the event. Bennett spoke of his newborn grandson who is currently in the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Salt Lake City. He was still wearing a red hospital bracelet labeled “NICU” on his arm.

“No matter what we’re doing … I think we need to show a little more IC (intensive care) to each other,” he said, pointing to the wristband.

Midway through the vigil, candles were lit to honor the victims of the shooting. Once the 19th candle was aflame, members of the audience raised their glow sticks and began waving the blue lights back and forth to the rhythm of the music.

“I think it’s amazing that we can rally around something that’s such a tragedy,” said pre-physiology freshman Joel Wresh, “and that it can be kind of like a focal point to so many people’s lives and that they can turn it around and make it into such a positive event.”

After the candle lighting and Kelly’s address, Calexico performed alongside the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. As the music played, the audience clapped to the beat and raised their glow sticks once again. Some even sang along.

The closing prayer was delivered by Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, who praised Tucson’s unwavering optimism. Meanwhile, blue wristbands inscribed with the phrase “be civil” were distributed among the crowd.

“For me, it’s really good to be here because I see that we’re still coming together as a community,” said Alana Varner, a UA alumna. “So it means that even though time has passed and it’s not as scary anymore, people are still committed to addressing the issues … and it’s not an issue that has just gone away.”

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