Memorial Service

Plans to honor the victims of Tucson's Congress on Your Corner mass shooting are coming together

The people touched by Tucson's mass shooting sadly understand all too well what the victims in the Las Vegas concert massacre are going through. Healing takes time, and there are burdens that never go away, said Ron Barber on the ground floor of Pima County's Administration Building earlier this week.

The former U.S. representative, then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' district director, was himself shot twice on Jan. 8, 2011.  

Downtown will soon house a memorial to honor victims of the shooting. The January 8th Memorial Foundation expects to finish fundraising and get underway on the seven-year anniversary of the tragedy where Giffords and 12 others were shot. Six people died, including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. Giffords was there meeting one-on-one with her constituents.

"This memorial is dedicated to educate young people, older people, current generations, future generations about the democratic process of communication between an elected official and their constituents," Barber said. "That shooting that day will not—absolutely will not—interrupt that process."

The memorial will be in front of the Old Pima County Courthouse by El Presidio Park, surrounded by courts, City Hall and the County Administration Building. The city and county both passed resolutions to dedicate the land for the memorial.

"We believe this is the perfect place, in the center of our democratic process," said Crystal Kasnoff, the foundation's executive director, at a news conference on Monday, Oct. 9.

The foundation has a pending legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate to make the project a national memorial with the National Parks Service. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Martha McSally, on behalf of herself, Rep. Raúl Grijalva and 12 other representatives. And the Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake, on behalf of himself and Sen. John McCain.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the shooting was an attack on democracy. Giffords survived, but she was forced to give up her seat in the House of Representatives to focus on recovery.

It's important to have "places where we can contemplate what is lost when we fail to see humanity in each other, places to remember the victims and places to dedicate ourselves to peace, both in our hearts and in our community," Rothschild said.

In creating the designs for the memorial, architect Marc Salette and his team with Chee Salette Architecture Office held a series of public meetings to get feedback and suggestions from the community. One of the elements that came from those meetings are symbols to be engraved in the memorial, representing some of the Jan. 8 survivors.

The project will cost an estimated $4.5 million. The foundation has already raised $3 million and are in a final push to have all the funding by Jan. 7, 2018. The Tohono O'odham nation contributed a $21,000 grant and the National Park Service contributed a $61,000 grant, according to Kasnoff.

Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Edward D. Manuel said gun violence has killed more people than any war. Manuel sees building this memorial is one way to help.

"We have to be unified as a people, regardless of what color we are," he said. "Love one another, respect one another and share the good things with one another. That's how we can overcome the bad things that are happening all the time."

A number of local organizations have offered a $1 million match-grant for the memorial's completion phase, with the largest donors being Raytheon and the Kautz Family Foundation. John Castle from Raytheon called on the business community to get behind the project because it "hits all the right chords of harmony" and provides a way to continue the revitalization of downtown.

The construction is planned to start in spring 2018 and take 9 to 11 months to complete. The timing of the memorial's opening should coincide with the completion of the Historic Courthouse and Regional Visitor Center renovation, said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

County Supervisor Richard Elías said the memorial is about convergence—of a community, the history of this region's native people and the courts that represents what we've built. He said the memorial is about the victims of Jan. 8 and all those who were terrorized by what happened that day.

"With the January 8th Memorial, what we're going to have is a convergence of all our hearts," he said.

Elías said what happened in Vegas is "another sad story in a history that's becoming more and more shocking," even while it becomes commonplace.

"I don't intend to ever get used to it," he said. "And I don't think any of the people who support this memorial will ever get used to it, nor should we. We should stand up and talk about the love that we share for each other and how we can best represent that in a place that's sacred to all of us."

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