Honor Their Memory

The January 8 Memorial will celebrate resiliency of those who lost loved ones and those who survived

Artist rendering of the Jan 8 Memorial

The January 8 Memorial Foundation was established in February, 2012 with a goal to raise funds for the construction of a Memorial next to the Historic Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson. On Jan. 8, fundraising will officially end and a dedication of the site will be held at 9:30 a.m. next to the courthouse. The public is invited to attend and participate in the celebration of this important milestone. A bell will ring out 19 times starting at 10:11 a.m., the moment when the shooting started, and the name of each person who was shot will be announced.

While the foundation board and Crystal Kasnoff, our talented executive director, have worked hard to carry out the mission, this memorial belongs to our compassionate and supportive community, from whom almost 100 percent of the funds have been raised.

Some of us would not have survived the tragedy if it had not been for citizens who came to our aid minutes after the shooting. They didn't know if the gunman had an accomplice, who would continue the shooting. They just responded to help those of us who were shot.

They put their hands on wounds to staunch the bleeding and spoke comforting words. They tried to revive victims and did triage to determine the priority order of survivors who needed transportation to hospitals. And they continued to support us from that day until now. I have no doubt they will always be there for the survivors and the families whose relatives were killed that fateful day.

The community grieved and was shocked to its core by what happened on Jan. 8, 2011. Many of us who were at that Congress On Your Corner were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and, I am certain, the event had a profound impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the community at large.

The emotional healing began that horrific day as members of our community built temporary memorials at the Safeway, Congresswoman Giffords' office and Banner - University Medical Center. People brought candles, poems, art, flowers, consoling messages and themselves to each memorial. Mariachis sang, a man played his violin almost every day, poems were recited, and people cried and held each other. Their grief was broadcast all over the country and the world. The community also made it clear that we would not be defined by the shooting. We were then and are still defined by the kindness and good will that flowed from all across our state and the nation.

When the temporary memorials had to be taken down, many people felt a loss. There would no longer be places where they could mourn, comfort one another, outwardly express their support to all of us and help themselves heal from the effects of this unspeakable act of violence. Thousands of items left at the temporary memorials have been given to the Arizona History Museum, where they will be part of a permanent exhibit showing the resilience of our community throughout its history.

The decision to build a memorial came from survivors and relatives of the six good people who were killed. It also addressed our community's need for a place where we could remember what took place and how we responded.

The earliest discussions were held exclusively for survivors and relatives of the six who were murdered. We are grateful to Lisa Lovallo of Cox Communications, who facilitated the meetings. The recommendations from those discussions helped shape the mission of the foundation when it was established.

Since its inception, the foundation board has received exceptional leadership from each board president, Stephen Brigham, Karen Christensen and Dot Kret. The Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and its CEO, Clint Mabie, was critical to the formation of the foundation along with the original incorporators, Ross Zimmerman, Corky Poster and myself.

Our deepest appreciation goes to the fundraising campaign honorary chairs, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Jim Click. We could not have been successful without their assistance and advocacy.

The memorial would not have been possible without the strong support of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the Tucson Mayor and Council, The Rio Nuevo Board and hundreds of donors including local businesses and foundations.

We also thank Chee Salette, the Memorial Architect, for the numerous community meetings they held to gather input on the Memorial. The design they produced is both elegant and sensitive to the wishes of victims' relatives, survivors and the many groups and individuals who have an interest in El Presidio Park.

Now, almost six years since its inception, the memorial foundation is ready to begin the construction phase.

We have often been asked: Why do we need a memorial and what is it for? The answer is simple...we need to remember!

The memorial is dedicated to the people who died, the survivors, and the first responders, citizens who rushed to our aid, the medical teams at UMC and the other hospitals, that cared for survivors and saved lives. It is a celebration of the resiliency of those who lost loved ones and those who survived. The memorial will also remember the fortitude of the native people who first lived on this land. They too have shown incredible resiliency in the face of hardships.

The foundation board wants current and future generations to know that the shooting disrupted an important event in our political processes. On that day, a member of Congress was holding a Congress On Your Corner with her constituents. This was her 21st such event and it was organized to provide personal access to her by the people she represented. Each person could speak directly to her about his or her concerns, policy issues and personal needs for assistance.

While a gunman halted that particular Congress On Your Corner, what his terrible act cannot dissolve is the commitment that elected officials must have to provide such opportunities to their constituents. Our democracy depends on the ability of citizens to speak personally to their elected officials and to hold them accountable for their decisions. No gunman can be allowed to prevent these aspirations or stop an essential element of our governmental system.

On behalf of the January 8 Memorial Foundation Board, I am pleased to invite you to join us on Jan. 8, 2018 in El Presidio Park next to the Historic Courthouse for the dedication ceremony. Please come at 9:30 am and join Arizonans and others who will be in attendance.

Remember: Together We Thrive!

Former congressman Ron Barber is the January 8 Memorial Foundation Board president.