Arizona remembers deadly day with bells, tears

By Amanda Lee Myers

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 8 2012 5:46 p.m. MST

Dancers from the Tucson Dance Academy perform during an interfaith remembrance service for the victims of the 2011 shootings that left six dead and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at St. Augustine Cathedral, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012 in Tucson, Ariz.

The Arizona Republic, Pat Shannahan) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES, Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. — This time, in the supermarket parking lot, there were softly ringing bells breaking the morning silence instead of the terrible sounds of gunfire and sirens.

More bells tolled later Sunday at Tucson's packed St. Augustine Cathedral as the names of the six people killed in the shooting rampage were read.

With hugs and tears, southern Arizonans remembered the dead, the shattered lives and those who acted heroically after a gunman opened fire at an outdoor meet-and-greet that severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and stunned the nation and this close-knit community.

The day of remembrance began with the ringing of church bells and hand-held bells throughout the city at 10:11 a.m., the exact time the gunman shot Giffords in the head and methodically moved down a line of people waiting to talk to her during a public event outside a Safeway supermarket on Jan. 8, 2011.

"Even in the midst of this troubling year, the healing, the courage that we have experienced in our community — each one of us can notice how our cups overflow with the blessings of our lives," said Stephanie Aaron, Giffords' rabbi, who recited the 23rd Psalm at an interfaith service at the cathedral Sunday afternoon.

Relatives of the six dead walked solemnly down the aisle with a single red rose, placing the flowers in a vase in front of a picture of a heart.

Hundreds of people at the cathedral — including Gov. Jan Brewer — stood and chanted, "We remember, we remember, we remember with grateful hearts." Some closed their eyes while others held each other.

Girls in white dresses and red sashes danced down the aisle as a song called "Hero in the Dark" played, and a pastor called on everyone to celebrate those who were lost and those who acted to save lives during the shooting.

Ron Barber, a Giffords staffer who survived two gunshot wounds, said he woke up Sunday dreaming about Giffords, who was severely wounded, and Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman, who died.

"You have to think about the six people whose loved ones don't have them today," Barber said before the church service began.

At the Safeway memorial, Bruce Ellis and his wife Kelly Hardesty, both 50, held each other tight and wept as the bells rang.

"It's shocking to have a massacre like this occur in your backyard," Ellis said. "It's something that happens on the news, not in your neighborhood."

About 30 others rang bells, hugged each other and cried as the time of the shooting passed. Many bowed in prayer.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, went to the scene of the shooting Saturday. They also visited University Medical Center, where Giffords was treated after the attack, and a trailhead outside Tucson named in honor of Zimmerman.

The couple was to join thousands at an evening candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona, with Kelly expected to speak. At an afternoon event at the University of Arizona, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who was born and raised in Tucson, spoke about Giffords.

He praised Giffords for working for the good of the country, and said other politicians can learn from her and move away from incendiary comments.

"Although Gabby now struggles with her words at times, we know what she's trying to say," Udall said. "It's a simple concept. Words matter, and these days you don't hear our elected officials using words to bring us together. Too often words are used as weapons."

Of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, her two best friends recalled a girl who aspired to dance with Beyonce, to be the first woman in Major League Baseball and one day be elected president United States.

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