A visit to UMC shooting memorial
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A visit to UMC shooting memorial

Dozens of cars and television station vans lined the street parallel to University Medical Center where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others wounded in Saturday's attack struggle for their lives.

Bundles of electrical lines flowed across the damp, dark sidewalks which lead towards the entrance of the hospital. The crowded passageway opened up into a clearing where people crowded around hundreds of fluttering candles on the front lawn of the hospital. Incense wafted through the brisk night air as a man softly strummed on an acoustic guitar.

On the night of the shooting, Tucsonans gathered in front of UMC. Some placed simple items like candles and flowers on the grass in support.

By Tuesday night, the makeshift memorial grew to such proportions that people built a candlelit path that split off and curved up onto the grassy hill and surrounding rocks. The entrance to the UMC is now one large, warm, colorful remembrance full of personal messages: letters and cards, photographs, hand-drawn pictures, banners and stuffed animals.

Some people arrived around sunset Tuesday to light candles. Many wrote a personal message, while others came to pray or perhaps, just experience the warmth and peace of the area.

Kim Hilty, a clinical supervisor at UMC, said it was the first time she had come down to see the memorial. She and many of the nurses watched from above inside the hospital as the crowds and artifacts grew, she said.

"Some of the nurses would comment about the front lawn and assume that they didn't have permission to go down and look at it"

"Some of the nurses would comment about the front lawn and assume that they didn't have permission to go down and look at it," Hilty said. "Finally they realized, of course it's OK and were actually encouraged to go do so."

Two nurses still dressed in scrubs did show up later in the night after their shift was over. They stayed briefly to look at all of the mementos offered in hopes that those inside would heal.

Although the nurses did not leave anything at the memorial, those who did had their own individual way of doing so.

One man brought a framed photograph of Giffords and carefully tip-toed his way through the cluttered lawn to place it in the middle of the memorial with a vase of red roses.

A woman lit a large bundle of dried sage, blew out the flame and placed it with a small group of candles. She began crying and angrily swept away her tears to stare in silence for a few moments.

One grandfather who walked with a cane carefully guided his granddaughter over to a pile of rocks where no other items were left and asked her to wedge a small white tapered candle there.

Some visitors lingered and stayed for hours while others seemed to appear for a few minutes and then move on. People were still arriving after 10 p.m. to add to the mass of mementos.

Hilty said that she went up to the 6th floor recently and took several photographs with her cell phone from above the memorial.

"It was a beautiful view, you could actually see to what extent the memorial had spread," she said.

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1 comment on this story

Jan 14, 2011, 10:30 am
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This article is very informative and well written. The photos are excellent.

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