REMEMBERING JAN. 8
Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. Judge John Roll. Congressional staffer Gabe Zimmerman. Retirees Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Dorwan Stoddard.
Three years ago, all six were at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner when a deranged gunman ended their lives in a hail of gunfire that lasted less than 20 seconds. Thirteen others, including Giffords, were wounded. Countless other lives were shattered in one way or another.
Tucson will pause to recall those terrible events on Wednesday, Jan. 8. At 10:10 a.m., bells will ring out after a moment of silence at University of Arizona Medical Center and a flag will be raised at the Nanini Library by first responders on the scene three years ago. At 7 p.m., people will gather at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church for a service that will include a presentation from Pat Maisch, who has been crusading for new restrictions on firearms since she wrestled an extended magazine from the Tucson gunman.
In the days that follow, Tucsonans will learn the latest about the plans for a permanent memorial, most likely to be located at the old Pima County Courthouse. And in the meantime, you'll have a chance to revisit the shrines that appeared at UMC and at Giffords' office. Curators have been going through all the photos, candles, cards and other mementos that were left by visitors and have assembled several collections that will be on display this month at three local libraries: downtown's Joel D. Valdez branch, the Nanini branch at 7300 N. Shannon Road and the Columbus branch at 4350 E. 22nd St.
On Saturday, Jan. 11, Beyond Tucson will offer Tucsonans a chance to celebrate Gabe Zimmerman's life by embracing a day of exercise and fresh air, whether it's going downtown for a day's worth of activities or by getting out of town for a bike ride or a hike in the desert. (See City Week on page 20 for more on the exhibits and Beyond Tucson events.)
Congressman Ron Barber, who was shot twice during the rampage, told the Weekly that he's "eternally grateful every day for the support we got on the most horrific day of any of our lives. It's still a memory that will never go away—seeing Gabe die and John Roll die and Gabby get shot. But the community support really helped us all recover in a lot of ways."
Barber remains disappointed that so little has changed in the wake of so many mass shootings.
"The biggest concern that I have is that we really haven't learned much from Tucson, from Aurora, from Columbine, from Virginia Tech and, worst of all, from Newtown," Barber said. "I really thought that when the Sandy Hook tragedy took place, that was a tipping point, and we would see Congress respond the way it should."
In particular, Barber was sorry to see legislation to expand background checks on gun sales stall in the U.S. Senate.
Barber said he plans to push for more resources for the mentally ill via mental-health first-aid training and other programs. In particular, he is concerned about veterans returning from war zones with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"They need a lot of help," Barber said. "We have way too many suicides because they are untreated. Mental-health treatment works. I worked in that field for 32 years. I know it works. We don't have enough resources or awareness."
In order to boost awareness of those issues, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is assembling a community forum to discuss mental illness and gun violence at the Loft Cinema on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
The forum will include a screening of Living for 32, a film that follows the efforts of Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard as he lobbies for new gun laws. Goddard is scheduled to attend the forum and talk about the film and his efforts to expand background checks on firearm purchases at gun shows.
Kozachik sees two main themes in Living for 32: the need for better mental-health treatment and the need for better background checks.
"Unfortunately, they are both things we've been struggling with at the state and federal level and we've really made inconsequential progress in both areas," Kozachik said. "Both of these issues are something we need to get our arms around."
Kozachik said that Goddard will be able to tell the audience "what it is like to be lying on your face in a classroom while your classmates are being murdered, and coming out of it with a very strong sense that we need to not just talk about it, but take action."
Other members of the panel will include Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, talking about his work with Mayors Against Illegal Guns; Clarke Romans of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Jeanette Mare of Ben's Bells, who will give an update on their efforts to provide mental-health first-aid training to workers in downtown Tucson; and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villaseñor, who will discuss background checks and other issues.
The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Loft, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Admission is free.