Bells and tears mark one year since Gabrielle Giffords shooting
The tinkling was high-pitched, like children’s laughter, and stretched on for several minutes. Bystanders trembled and hugged. A few shook with tears.
The simple, powerful gesture outside a Safeway grocery store marked one year, to the minute, when a gunman opened fire here at a meet-and-greet for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed and 13 wounded, including the congresswoman, who was shot in the head.
Thus began a day of commemorative events in this sprawling southern Arizona city, which residents like to think of as a “big small town.” Later in the day, mourners will attend a gathering to honor the dead, who included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. A vigil too is planned, with Giffords scheduled to appear.
On Saturday, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, returned for the first time to the Safeway, which anchors the upscale shopping center La Toscana Village on the city’s northwest side. Kelly tweeted a photo of Giffords, in a dark jacket, jeans and sneakers, standing outside the store and pointing.
“Gabby remembering the parking spot she chose from Jan. 8,” Kelly wrote.
Shortly after the shootings, a collection of flowers and candles sprang up outside the grocery store. Retired teacher Kati Boehm lives nearby, and each time she went shopping after the killings, she’d buy a single flower and add it to the pile. It seemed like the least she could do.
Others felt the same. Across the street from the plaza, in a patch of dirt, someone set up six white wooden crosses, each decorated with an artificial bouquet. The names of the dead were printed in black: Dorwan Stoddard. John Roll. Gabriel Zimmerman. Phyllis Schneck. Christina-Taylor Green. Dorothy Morris.
“I think people want to be connected to one another and sometimes it takes tragedy to do that,” Boehm, 65, told The Times.
Sunday morning, Boehm and her boyfriend, Andrew Culver, 53, wanted to join what was billed as a community-wide bell-ringing. They didn’t have bells, so they grabbed wind chimes from a tree outside their home.
When they arrived at the Safeway, where the makeshift memorial had been cleared out long ago, they were joined by several dozen residents and a scrum of journalists. On this brisk, blue-skied morning, they gathered around a permanent memorial: a boulder, marked by a plaque honoring the "Tucson Tragedy." It's encircled by six smaller rocks, one for each victim.
People placed bouquets of roses nearby. They lit Virgin of Guadalupe candles. The adults clutched Starbucks coffee cups; the children, stuffed animals.
Someone said: “It’s 10:11.”
Boehm and Culver tinkled their wind chimes. Some people rang single bells, like Salvation Army greeters, while others shook strands with multiple bells. One woman made due with rattling her keys.
The chiming stretched to 10:12, 10:13, 10:14, longer. Even when Boehm and Culver walked away from the crowd, their wind chimes kept clinking.
-- Ashley Powers in Tucson
Photo: A shopper passes by a memorial at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., a week after the mass shooting in January 2011 that left six dead and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images