Morning hikers honor Jan. 8 shooting victims
Events get people moving to honor 6 killed, 18 injured
Hikers gathered in small groups across Southern Arizona on Saturday to hit the trails in tribute to 24 people shot at a Tucson grocery store two years ago.
“Anything that creates a greater sense of community, I want to support,” said Dan Moyer, 61, a retired Flowing Wells School District counselor who hiked the Davidson Canyon trail east of Tucson with friends to honor Gabriel Zimmerman, who died in the Jan. 8 shootings.
“In a city of a million people, it's easy to feel disconnected,” he said.
The hikes were part of Beyond Tucson, a series of events aimed at connecting Southern Arizonans and recognizing the victims of Jared Loughner's Jan. 8, 2010, rampage with a Glock handgun. Loughner killed six people and injured 18 others at a Northwest Side shopping center, including Zimmerman's boss, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was at the store to greet constituents. Giffords later resigned from Congress and now lives in Tucson with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Loughner pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Last year, Pima County dedicated the Davidson Canyon trail head to Zimmerman, who was 30. It includes a large industrial-style metal archway and a bigger-than-life tile image of a bearded, smiling Gabe. A short, paved trail leads to a quiet area with a couple of concrete benches set on a hillside amid towering ocotillos. A large plaque facing the mountains honors all the shooting victims.
The trail head was built largely with volunteer labor, said Emily Nottingham, Zimmerman's mother, who was there Saturday. The trail itself, which serves as a gateway to the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve, represents a connection.
“It's part of the Arizona Trail, which goes from Mexico to Utah,” Nottingham said.
Zimmerman's family started Beyond Tucson in January 2012 to get Tucsonans together for the anniversary of the shootings. The tragedy sparked a deep sense of togetherness among Southern Arizonans, and the Zimmermans wanted to maintain that. Bringing people together outside, hiking and biking the way Gabe did, was a natural, Nottingham said.
On Saturday, downtown's Armory Park served as a hub of festivities stretching from Colossal Cave to Oracle. The Children's Museum was free all day, and fitness booths and activities dotted the park. There were hikes or runs at a dozen spots, including Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park West, Marana and Catalina State Park.
Hikers gathered early at Davidson Canyon. At 8:30 a.m., Nottingham said a few words, then everyone scattered down the trail, some walking slower, some faster. People were trickling back in to a table of snacks by 10:30 a.m. Everyone was smiling, including Shauna McGlamery, 32, who appreciated being a part of something bigger than herself. She hiked with friends from Flowing Wells School District, where she works.
“It's a very peaceful, beautiful place to commemorate the shootings,” McGlamery said after a chilly walk.
Crystle Gallegos, 29, a Flowing Wells assistant principal who was with McGlamery, seemed grateful for the chance to take in the views of the south face of the Rincons. Beyond Tucson brought Gallegos somewhere new.
“While I was out there, I realized I probably wouldn't have ever been on this particular trail if it hadn't been for the tragic events of Jan. 8,” she said.
The world has moved on in the two years since the Tucson shootings. The satellite trucks are long gone, their focus on tragedy shifted from Tucson to Aurora to Newtown. Nottingham's world has moved on, too, and she knows the memory of the shootings will fade for most people and events like the ones Saturday will be less frequent.
“And that's OK,” she said, glancing out toward the panorama of the Rincon Mountains.