Never to be Forgotten

Together We Thrive events remember what we lost on Jan. 8, 2011

The tragic events of Jan. 8, 2011, still echo throughout the Tucson community, which may never be the same after six people were killed and 13 others—including U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords—were wounded in a mass shooting at an informal political gathering on the northwest side.

As with all such incidents, the anniversary conjures painful memories of what was lost.

As the third anniversary of the shooting nears, the January 8th Memorial Foundation has put together an exhibit showcasing some of the thousands of cards, notes, signs, artwork and other items that were left at spontaneous memorials near the shooting site, near University of Arizona Medical Center and near Giffords' office at Pima Street and Swan Road.

The main January 8th Memorial Foundation: Together We Thrive exhibit will be on display from Friday, Jan. 3, through Friday, Jan. 31, at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library downtown. Smaller exhibits will be displayed during the same dates at the Nanini Library on the northwest side and at the Eckstrom-Columbus Library on East 22nd Street.

A reception connected with the exhibit will be held Monday, Jan. 6, in the Valdez Library's cafe area. Representatives of the foundation will discuss how the exhibits were put together, as well as plans for archiving and digitally displaying everything collected from the memorial sites.

"This exhibit is going to be the first time in which we've publicly displayed some of the memorial materials," said Michelle Crow, the foundation's exhibits manager and also coordinator for Beyond, a series of communitywide events scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11, to honor the victims. "This stuff has been in storage for about two years."

Crow said the materials left at the memorial sites were boxed up and stored in space donated by Sundt Construction, but it wasn't until the Jan. 8 Memorial Foundation hired archivist Alexandria Caster to look through the material that the foundation realized the extent of what had been collected.

"I had to keep a lot of Kleenex down at the archive site," Crow said. "It was just amazing, the energy and time people put into it. Many of the items were more about the person giving the item than about the recipient."

The exhibits will feature "just a sampling" of the collected items, Crow said, but other projects are in the works to showcase everything. A formal inventory is being conducted as part of the Arizona Memory Project, a digital display of scanned images in conjunction with the Arizona State Library, while a blog chronicling the creation of the memorials continues to be updated during the archiving process.

Crow said the January 8th Memorial Foundation also plans to seek out artists interested in using some of the most common memorial items, such as candles and plastic flowers, to create artwork and sculptures for future memorial exhibits.

Although the memorial exhibits are new this year, the Beyond events began in 2012. What started as a single event coordinated by the family of Gabe Zimmerman, one of the six people slain, has blossomed into a series of events throughout the Tucson area. They are meant to bring people together to remember the past, but also to look toward the future, Crow said.

"The goal of these events is to move beyond the tragedy. But it's also important to push ourselves beyond our normal activity levels and push ourselves beyond our normal social levels of interaction," Crow said.

This year's Beyond collaboration, on Saturday, Jan. 11, features 16 events at 12 locations. The main event—Together We Move!—runs from noon to 3 p.m. at Armory Park downtown. It includes a family-friendly bike ride and free admission to the Children's Museum Tucson.

Other Beyond events include outdoors activities such as hikes and runs, and opportunities for public service, such as removing invasive buffelgrass at "A" Mountain.

"So many people said to me after (last year's Beyond) that this is so much what Tucson is about," Crow said. "It's kind of just a good way to start the year off right."