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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Tragedy victims deserve better

Two weeks ago, mourners across Tucson left flowers, candles and personal messages in front of a Safeway on the northwest side, in a midtown office complex and the lawn of University Medical Center.

The temporary memorials were created for the victims of the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six, critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and wounded several others. Since then, Tucson watched as all the survivors were released from the hospital, bid Giffords good luck as she was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Texas and said goodbye to the victims killed in the shooting. Life has begun to resemble normalcy again. But the memorials are still there.

They can’t stay up forever, and there is little doubt that some kind of permanent memorial will eventually be established at one of the three sites. There’s no question that the victims of the tragedy deserve to be remembered.

The issue, then, is how to avoid diminishing their memories.

If the controversy surrounding the behavior at the memorial service held in McKale Center on Jan. 12 is any signal, paying our respects to the shooting victims is everyone’s top priority. So it is baffling how difficult it seems to be for people to remember that Giffords was not the only victim on Jan. 8. And, while it is a relief that she survived, and continues to recover at a remarkable rate, several other lives were irreversibly changed that day.

Admittedly, Giffords is a popular public figure, a face to rally around. Her recovery is a tangible reason for hope and celebration. But the permanent memorial site, wherever it goes in and whatever form it ends up, is something quieter. Its job should be to preserve the memory of the lives lost that day, as much as to celebrate those who survived.   

The cheap rubber bracelets, gaudy T-shirts and water bottles plastered with Giffords’ face threaten to trivialize the tragedy. They steal any meaning away from the actions of the first responders, the heroism of ordinary citizens and the deaths of six real people.

Federal Judge John Roll stopped by the Safeway that morning to say hello to a friend, Giffords, and grab a cup of coffee. Christina Green liked to play baseball with the boys. Dorothy Morris had two daughters. Dorwan Stoddard was an active member of his church. Gabe Zimmerman was engaged to be married. Phyllis Schneck sewed the logo of the New York Giants onto aprons.

These were people who may have lived next door to us, gone to our school or shopped at our grocery store. Their lives and deaths should count for something.

It’s been two weeks, and everyone is eager to find a way to move on. “”Together We Thrive: Tucson and America”” was a celebration of thousands being united and moving on together. The permanent memorial is not that. It deserves more dignity than a T-shirt at the bottom of your dresser drawer or a bracelet that will collect dust on your desk. And it shouldn’t be treated as though Giffords is a spokeswoman and the tragedy is a brand to market.

The lives of everyone in that Safeway plaza counted that day. So should the way we remember them.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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