Bells rang out across Tucson on Sunday to mark exactly one year since a bloody morning when a gunman’s deadly rampage shook a community and shocked a nation.
It’s been a year of reflecting on lives shattered, of struggling with flashbacks and nightmares, of replaying the what-ifs before the deadly rampage. And in the middle of it: one woman, Gabrielle Giffords, forging one of the most grueling journeys back of all.
One year after a deranged gunman shot the Arizona congresswoman in the head and opened fire on dozens of others at a Tucson grocery store, the congresswoman and other survivors were gathering Sunday to reflect and move forward.
Many throughout the close-knit southern Arizona community began the day of remembrance Sunday by ringing bells at 10:11 a.m., the exact time the gunman shot Giffords and methodically moved down a line of people waiting to talk to her during a congressional meet-and-greet on Jan. 8, 2011.
Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl born on 9/11 and a federal judge. Thirteen others were shot, including Giffords.
Gail Gardiner, 70, who lives about a mile away from Safeway where the shooting happened, came to the store Sunday along with about 30 others and tied a balloon with butterflies on it that says “Thinking of you” to a railing outside the store, next to a shooting memorial.
“This is my backyard and this is where I want to be and show people that we remember this,” Gardiner said. “It just hits so close to home and so many innocent people’s lives were taken and changed forever.”
People hugged each other and cried as the time of the shooting passed. Many bowed their heads in prayer.
The 41-year-old Giffords has spent the last year in Houston undergoing intensive physical and speech therapy. Doctors and family have called her recovery miraculous after the Jan. 8 shooting; she is able to walk and talk, vote in Congress and gave a televised interview to ABC’s Diane Sawyer in May. But doctors have said it would take many months to determine the lasting effects of her brain injury. The three-term congresswoman has four months to decide whether to seek re-election.
“She’s making a lot of progress. She’s doing great,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, a close friend, said. “She still has a long way to go.”
Giffords, her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, and her Tucson doctor are joining thousands at an evening candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona. Kelly was expected to speak.
Close friends of Giffords and of the dead planned emotional reflections on their lives.
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who was born and raised in Tucson, will speak about Giffords, whose recovery has captivated the nation. Federal judge Raner Collins is remembering fellow judge John Roll; Christina-Taylor Green’s two best friends will talk about the bright and ambitious girl born on Sept. 11, 2001.
Pat Maisch is set to speak on behalf of everyone who survived. The petite but feisty woman grabbed a gun magazine from Jared Lee Loughner after he was tackled during the shooting and believes she would have been shot next if he hadn’t been subdued.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the shooting. The 23-year-old, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is being forcibly medicated at a Missouri prison facility in an effort to make him mentally ready for trial.