Ron Barber pushes to make Tucson's Jan. 8th memorial a national site
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber urged a House committee Thursday to move ahead with legislation making the site dedicated to the victims of Tucson's January 8th shooting a national memorial.
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick introduced a bill directing the Interior Department to make the new memorial part of the National Park System, one of 92 sites spread across the United States.
Known as "The Embrace," the January 8th Memorial is in El Presidio Park just west of the Historic Pima County Courthouse, and commemorates the victims of the 2011 shooting. The memorial was dedicated on the shooting's tenth anniversary earlier this year.
That day, while U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords held an event known as "Congress on Your Corner," meeting with constituents outside a Safeway in Casas Adobes, a gunman opened fire, seriously wounding her, as well as Barber, and 11 others. Six people were killed, including Gabe Zimmerman, a congressional staffer, U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
"The events of January 8th, 2011, should be remembered as a national tragedy, just as our community’s response should be commemorated as a national point of pride," Barber said.
During his testimony, Barber thanked Kirkpatrick and the other members of the Arizona congressional delegation—including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee.
After Giffords was shot and resigned her office a year later, Barber served as the congressman for her Southern Arizona district through 2014, when he lost his re-election bid.
Barber, now president of the January 8th Memorial Foundation, asked the committee to make the site a national memorial, telling them during a virtual hearing that "the tragic shooting that day shook our community and our nation."
"This designation will allow people from all across our country to know that it exists and what it stands for," Barber said. He said that the memorial was located in Downtown Tucson because its placement is in the "center of civic life in Pima County."
The monument, he said, "honors the six people who were killed on that fateful day and those who were wounded and survived. It also is dedicated to the remarkable response from our community in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. That outpouring of support showed the strength, resilience, and true spirit of Southern Arizonans."
"Our first responders saved many lives and the memorial is dedicated to them as well," he said, telling the committee that he survived because of the "fast response of shoppers and EMTs."
During his testimony, Barber named the six people killed that day, including Dorothy Dot” Morris, Judge John Roll, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, and Gabriel “Gabe” Zimmerman, who were each "the fatal victims of the shooter, who came to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords."
"The memorial includes tributes to each of those who died, as well as 13 others who were wounded," Barber said. "Each person has a unique set of symbols on the interior wall of the memorial. These symbols represent the interests and lives of those who died or were wounded. The memorial also includes symbols representing critical events in Tucson’s history, which show the city’s resilience and strength in the face of adversity."
Barber added that the memorial design was made in consultation with the relatives of victims, as well as survivors, and incorporates input from members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, on "whose ancestral land the memorial is built."
"Designating the January 8th National Memorial Site as an affiliated area of the National Park Service will not only elevate its status to that of national significance, but it will also increase its visibility, hopefully giving others across the country an opportunity to honor the victims and survivors of this horrific tragedy and see the strength of our community in its aftermath," he said.
"The significance of this event - an attempted assassination of a sitting member of Congress, the first-ever death of a congressional staff person in the line of duty, the death of the chief judge of the federal court in Arizona, the death of a beautiful nine-year-old girl and the death of three senior citizens are too important not to memorialize at a national level," Barber added.
"It was powerful watching Ron Barber speak on behalf of the January 8th Memorial today," said Kirkpatrick. "I cannot thank him enough for sharing his experience with the committee and emphasizing the value of a national designation."
"The events on January 8th, 2011, not only impacted our Tucson community but shook the nation; the memorial is wholly worthy of a national memorial distinction," she said. "I believe there is no better, selfless public servant than my friend, Ron Barber, he was the perfect person to share this testimony and help educate the committee."
"We were determined not to let the tragedy define us," Barber said."What happened after the shooting and this memorial define the compassion and caring that came to each of us from our community and contributed to our healing."