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Supporters demand national designation for Tucson Jan.8 memorial

The January 8 memorial outside the Pima County Courthouse is designed to talk about how the community came together after the January 8, 2011 shooting, which left six people dead and 13 injured, including the representative of the ‘era. Gabrielle Giffords, right, looking at the memorial with her husband, Senator Mark Kelly. (Photo by Randy Metcalf / Courtesy of County Pima)

The names of the victims of the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured, and her congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed, are engraved in the January 8 memorial in Tucson . (Photo by Kasey Brammell / Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – On January 8, 2011, a mass shooting in Tucson left six people dead and 13 injured, including the representative at the time. Gabrielle Giffords, resonated nationally.

Ron Barber thinks that should be remembered nationally as well.

The hairdresser testified Thursday in support of a bill that would make the Jan. 8 memorial in Tucson an “affiliate zone” of the national park system, a designation he said “lets our country know it exists.” .

“When you look at what happened that day, it has national and international significance,” Barber said during a House natural resources subcommittee hearing on the bill. “When this shooting took place, it not only affected the conscience of our community, it affected the conscience of our entire country and abroad.”

The proposal received a mixed reception from the National Park Service, who said he could not support the affiliate designation until he has had the chance to study whether the site “meets the criteria of national importance, suitability and feasibility” for inclusion in the network national parks.

“The ministry appreciates the desire of the sponsor of the bill to bring greater recognition to the events of January 8, 2011,” said Mike Caldwell, acting deputy director of the National Park Service for park planning, facilities and operations. land. “However, we have no basis for knowing whether the proposed site meets the criteria for inclusion or affiliation with the national park system, as no study has been carried out for the site.”

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Senator Mark Kelly, visit the Jan.8 memorial in Tucson last December, ahead of its dedication on Jan.8, 2021, the 10th anniversary of the shooting it commemorates. (Photo by Randy Metcalf / Courtesy of County Pima)

Barber disagreed, saying during the audience that “if it doesn’t matter nationally, I don’t know what it is.”

The privately funded memorial was unveiled on January 8, 2021, to mark the 10th anniversary of the shooting at a ‘Congress in Your Corner’ event outside a Tucson Safeway, where Giffords, a Democrat, was meeting with voters when an armed man approached and opened fire.

Giffords was seriously injured by a bullet to the head and has spent years recovering, still walking limp and struggling with her speech. Barber, his aide-de-camp at the time, was shot in the leg and 11 others were injured.

Giffords community outreach staff member Gabe Zimmerman was killed in the attack along with U.S. District Chief Justice John Roll, Christina-Taylor Green, 9, Dorothy Morris, Dorwan Stoddard and Phyllis Schneck. Barber remembers them as “six wonderful people”.

“I don’t use the word ‘lost’ because the truth is they were killed. They were murdered, ”he said.

He recalled over the phone Thursday how locals made three makeshift memorials “hours after the shooting” at Giffords office, the hospital where the victims were treated and the Safeway where it happened.

“Some people prayed, some people read poems, some people brought candles or tiles with messages on them, flowers and everything,” Barber said. “The reason we built this memorial where we did is that it is located downtown, in a historic downtown community neighborhood, the historic courthouse, and is now in public view. ”

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The permanent January 8 Memorial stands in El Presidio Park, two curving alleys facing each other that represent the community’s embrace after the shooting. They dive so spectators can walk along the walls adorned with symbols honoring the victims, survivors and the Tohono O’odhams who originally inhabited the area.

Barber, a Democrat who took over from Giffords in power, said the memorial’s organizers “did everything to get him out of partisanship.” The fundraiser was led by Giffords and local car dealership Jim Click, a Republican.

“What I think is important is that it doesn’t happen every day – thank goodness – and it’s never happened before that we’ve had these people who were federal employees, if you will, killed or almost killed by a gunman who came to assassinate a congressman, “Barber said after the hearing.” That in itself deserves national recognition. “

The bill does not require the park department to take back the memorial, which belongs to Pima County, but it would allow the federal government to help the county commercialize the site and would require the development of a management plan by the federal government. Barber said Thursday’s hearing It was the first time he or the foundation had heard of the park service’s position.

“They haven’t contacted us, but now that I know their position I’m going to contact him on behalf of the board to see if we can turn him around a bit on that,” Barber said.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service said that sites affiliated with the National Park Service “may receive assistance from the NPS but are generally owned and administered primarily by non-federal entities “.

Former Rep. Ron Barber, who was shot dead in the Tucson shooting on January 8, 2011, speaks at the dedication of the memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attack. The curved wall behind him is one of two meant to evoke the community’s embrace after the shooting. (Photo by Randy Metcalf / Courtesy of County Pima)

To be considered an affiliate, The report stated that a site should “meet the same standards of importance and suitability” of NPS locations, “require special recognition or technical assistance beyond what is available through existing NPS programs”, be managed under the same rules as NPS locations and ‘be assured of sustainable protection of resources.

The law project was sponsored by Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, and co-sponsored by seven of the other eight members of the state congressional delegation. Only Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, did not sign.

Barber wanted “we could have 100%” of the state delegation’s support, but for the “90%, if you will, of the delegation supporting it, they understand what it’s about. “

“It’s about honoring the people who were killed, those who survived and all the people who came to our aid,” Barber said.

Representative Raúl Grijalva, D-Tucson, said during the hearing that he “wishes he did not exist” and “that we do not have to take the time to commemorate him”.

“Sadly, January 8, 2011 is a day Tucsonians and the nation will never forget,” Grijalva said.

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