TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Nearly a decade after Tucson became the site of a deadly mass shooting, the city renewed a promise Wednesday that the victims would not be forgotten.
Dozens, including survivors like former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, gathered for a morning ceremony in front of a historic courthouse downtown, close to the site of a planned permanent memorial.
The 2011 shooting at a Giffords meet-and-greet event outside a supermarket left six people dead. The victims ranged from John Roll, Arizona’s chief federal judge, to 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
A bell rang as each of their names, and the names of the wounded were read. Neither Giffords nor her husband, Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly, spoke.
The large memorial is currently under construction and expected to be completed in the late summer or fall of this year. Construction has seen several delays after crews found historical items buried underground, said Crystal Kasnoff, the executive director for the January 8th Foundation. Those items include pottery and an old fuel tank that was used in the early 1900s for the old historic Tucson courthouse, Kasnoff said.
The foundation is fully funding the memorial through donations and pledges, Kasnoff said. She said she didn’t have the total cost because the county is overseeing the project, but said construction costs had risen since plans first went into place several years ago. Organizers originally said the memorial would cost about $5 million.
The construction is now estimated at $2.4 million, said Mark Evans, a Pima County spokesman.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who worked for Giffords and won her seat in a special election, announced that legislation would be introduced to give the memorial national status.
“People all across the country who are looking for places to go for remembrance memorials will know this is one of those places,” Barber said.
In the nine years since the shooting, Giffords and Kelly have made gun control a cornerstone of their platform. They founded the advocacy group Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Others who were affected by the shooting include state Rep. Daniel Hernandez, who was Giffords’ intern in 2011 and tended to her after she was shot in the head.
“Today take a moment to think of all those forever changed by January 8th and take a moment to hug your loved ones a bit tighter,” Hernandez said in a statement.
The gunman, Jared Loughner, is serving multiple life sentences. ___
Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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