Remembering Jan. 8
BEYOND closing lights spirits as sun sets
The day-long series of BEYOND events ended as they began, with prayers and music and quiet togetherness.
About 300 people gathered at Kino Stadium as daylight slipped away. Victims of the Jan. 8 shooting, their families, witnesses, staffers from U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office, local leaders and ordinary Tucsonans sat in the stands, listening to speakers and singing along to "Amazing Grace."
"I want you to think about the loved ones who may not be with you, and celebrate their lives," said Ross Zimmerman, father of Gabriel Zimmerman, a slain aide to U.S. Gabrielle Giffords.
"And move forward, because they would want you to move forward. Gabe would have had a great time today," he said.
Speaking after the event, Zimmerman said the Tucson Trails Tribute — which his family began to honor his son's love of the outdoors — plans to reprise the BEYOND events next year
TTT will also expand into other ways of bringing people out of their homes and closer together, he said.
"The rest of Tucson Trails Tribute begins now — this is not an ending," he said.
"We want you to celebrate the lives of those you've lost, not their deaths," he said.
"What are you going to do with the life you've got?" he asked, saying that he wants to promote healthy bodies and minds, and foster better relationships by getting people off of their couches and away from their televisions.
"You can't just do this once a year and have it be successful," he said.
"There is a huge hole in our office and in our heart" after Gabriel Zimmerman's killing, Giffords' aide Ron Barber told the crowd.
"Instead of responding with anger and rancor, this community came together in an extraordinary way... might I suggest, in a civil way," said Barber, who was wounded Jan. 8, along with 18 others, including the congresswoman. Six people died in the attack.
"Today is a good day, we are here to overcome the horrific memory of a year ago," said Dr. John Miller, the the Northwest Bible Church.
"We rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep," he said.
"We are a better community today because we have been sobered by the reality of how fragile life is," Miller said.
The news that Gabrielle Giffords was shot and in critical condition "had a hard-hitting effect on me," said Pima County Supervisor Ramón Valadez.
"What makes us special is what we've become through this event," he said.
As the sun set, volunteers handed out small battery-powered candles. As two pipers played "Amazing Grace," the crowd quietly sang along, growing louder when accompanied by a harpist.
Those who didn't have candles held up cell phones as the girl's choir of St. Odilia's Parish — the church of slain nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green — sang "This Little Light of Mine."
The commemoration also included the performance of a musical piece written for those who were shot on Jan. 8, performed by a University High School symphony ensemble. UHS is the alma mater of both Giffords and Gabriel Zimmerman.
"It was tremendous," said retired Col. Bill Badger, who was shot Jan. 8 before he helped tackle and restrain Jared Loughner. Badger, who with his wife had shared chocolates and nuts with those sitting nearby before the ceremony began, described the event as a fitting end to a day of remembrance
Others present included Jim and Doris Tucker, who were among the first in line at the Jan. 8 "Congress On Your Corner" meet-and-greet. Jim was shot twice Jan. 8.
Joe Zamudio, who rushed to the shooting scene from a nearby store when he heard gunshots, sat quietly during the ceremony.
Daniel Hernandez, the Giffords intern who was dubbed a hero for aiding his boss when she was shot, held a candle as the BEYOND commemoration came to an end.
"We are citizens of Tucson, we are strands in the braided candle of peace," Gabrielle Giffords' rabbi, Stephanie Aaron, told the crowd as she compared Tucsonans to the Havdalah candle which ends the Jewish Sabbath.
We braid ourselves into a single unified flame, she said.
"Wherever we went in our town today, we were together," Aaron said.
"Together, we gather to go beyond."
Mariana Dale contributed to this report.