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Beyond Sad 

Four years after the tragedy of Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson works to remember and commemorate

Looking back at the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting, most people will still say, "Everyone remembers exactly where they were on that day at that time."

I definitely do. I know where I was, what I was doing, who told me what had happened and what I did the rest of the day.

Tucson was paralyzed.

But despite the fear, anger and sadness, the response was to head to the University of Arizona Medical Center, where former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others shot had been transported, and fill nearly every acre of UAMC's front lawn with color—flower arrangements, handwritten notes, candles, paintings and photos.

Groups of people were there 24/7 for a few weeks, praying for the victims.

The lawn had to eventually clear, but by no means had this meant Tucson moved on. Four years later, the city is still healing.

Ceremonies and events are in store for the next few days to commemorate the six killed: Christina-Taylor Green, John Roll, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck and Dorothy Morris, and Giffords congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman; as well as the 13 wounded and their families. It's about grieving positively.

The BEYOND events arose to remind us of the physical and emotional bonds we formed from tragedy.

Three years ago, members of Zimmerman's family, alongside a growing number of local organizations (now that number reaches more than 100), created the umbrella event, which underneath has wellness-focused activities at various locations from sunrise to well after sunset.

"I'm very inspired by the people who participate every year. It brings out the best of us," says Michelle Crow, manager of Tucson's January 8 Memorial Foundation. "It brings out the true intentions of what we want our community to be, care for one another, breaking down barriers ... getting ourselves off the couch and out of the house and connecting with our neighbors."

On Saturday, Jan. 10, you can choose between hiking, bike riding or doing something that involves the outdoors at any of the more than 18 activities happening in every corner of Tucson and the towns of Oro Valley and Marana. There's also the BEYOND main event happening at Armory Park, Together We Move!, where there will be a health and wellness fair, as well as help to sign up for health insurance.

"It's a timeless theme, in taking a moment to think what we want to be, what we want our community to be, what positives we can take for our health, the health of loved ones....the community as a whole," Crow says. "What actions you want to take with your own life moving forward is, I think, a great tribute."

On the days after BEYOND, the four design teams (each composed of artists from Tucson, Tempe, Los Angeles and even Germany) selected as finalists in the search for the brains and hands that will bring the permanent Jan. 8 memorial to life—and a renovation to El Presidio Park where the memorial will live—will be in town to participate in a series of community meetings.

It's Tucson's role to provide the heart.

"This tragedy affected every single person who lives in this city," Crow says. "We feel it's very important that this be a very open and accessible process...for people to share their ideas, express their concerns, thoughts, feelings. Ultimately, all those things help inform artists and designers. It helps us create an even better and more appropriate memorial for what happened."

The national search for design teams has been a collaboration between the January 8 Memorial Foundation and the Tucson Pima Arts Council. There is still more planning and community meetings ahead before a winner is selected, which Crow expects to happen in the spring. Then, a few months later, the final design plan will be presented for both the memorial and the renovation to El Presidio Park.

"Everybody's immediate reaction to the tragedy was to create a memorial, and it was so inspiring to walk in the lawn at UAMC and see it," Crow says. "It was beautiful and it was completely spontaneous that the community created this art to express grief. We promised the community that we would create a permanent memorial and we are on our way to fulfill that promise."

The BEYOND main event Together We Move! is taking place at Armory Park and the Children's Museum, 200 S. Sixth Ave., from noon to 3 p.m. Admission is free. The community is also encouraged to attend the Jan. 8 permanent memorial public meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 13 at the Arizona Historical Society's auditorium, 949 E. Second St. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. See the complete list of BYOND events here.

More by María Inés Taracena

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