Southern Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords epitomizes the spirit of giving—seasonal and year-round—and now, one year after she was shot while conducting a Congress on Your Corner gathering in Tucson, the community is giving back to her. Dozens of commemorative events are scheduled from January 6-8 to honor her heroic rehabilitation efforts and to help the community heal itself.
President Obama called the shooting “an unspeakable tragedy.” House Speaker John Boehner noted: “This is a sad day for our country.” In one of the very rare acts of bi-partisan agreement seen this year on Capitol Hill, both were right.
The President traveled to Tucson to attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of the attack in which 19 were shot and 6 died. Obama extolled Giffords as “an extraordinary public servant who listened to the hopes and concerns of her constituents.” She also listened to concerns of those who were not constituents, but her neighbors – like the two Native American nations whose sovereign lands are in proximity to her own congressional district.
Although only 2.1 percent of the Congresswoman’s district is made up of American Indians, there is a mutual respect on and off the reservations that was shown following the shooting when young Tohono O’odham youth showed up in brightly-colored traditional robes and sang a blessing outside her hospital.
Tradition continued when a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Dr. Carlos Gonzales, offered the memorial service prayer by honoring Father Sky, Mother Earth, and the four doors, and then urged: “Let us work towards harmony, wholeness, and balance.”
It’s been one full year since that act of violence took place and in preparing myriad commemoration events, sponsors noted: “January 8th was a horrible day that shook our community and affected each of us deeply. Our community came together like it had never done before. The sense of togetherness was tangible. We supported each other, leaned on each other, and looked out for one another. To celebrate that spirit of togetherness, we re-commit ourselves to work together to build a stronger community. BEYOND * Commemorate * Celebrate * Commit * will help assure that Tucson is remembered for its response to the tragedy and not the singular event itself.”
A lengthy list of events is planned, beginning with an open house at the Gabrielle Gifford’s Family Assistance Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona – just another example of Gabby’s direct involvement with the concept of sharing.
Hundreds of bell chimes will be randomly distributed throughout Tucson “in memory of those lost in the shooting and in gratitude for a supportive community.” At 10:11 a.m. on January 8 – one year to the minute – there will be a community-wide ringing of bells symbolizing Hurting – Healing – Hope. Interfaith services with a theme of “We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe” will be on-going throughout the day including speeches, reflective moments, and a candlelight vigil that evening.
The Congresswoman’s Senior Press Advisor, Mark Kimble, says Giffords will be in Tucson during the commemorative events, but any planned participation on her part would be up to her.
Because Gabby is a recognized friend of Indians, her Indian friends will also take part in the commemorative activities. There will be Native American participation in the form of a Reactivate Your Health and Family event, collaboratively sponsored by the Tucson Indian Center, the County Health Department, United Way of Southern Arizona and Reactivate Sportswear.
“We were invited to participate and we decided to present an event for Native families that will celebrate life, fitness, nature, well-being, and unity, encouraging families, youth, and elders to maintain and improve their overall well-being,” said Terilene Glasses, Tucson Indian Center Diabetes Prevention Specialist. “Our intent coincides with the aim of the Beyond sponsors and that is to focus on the family and the community coming together, reuniting to make stronger connections with each other through active living and active giving.”
The Reactivate event will feature a family fun-run-walk and bike run over a course marked by flags designed and decorated by tribal youth and elders. There will be plenty of opportunities for physical expression, ranging from rock climbing walls and pedal carts to obstacle courses and scavenger hunts. Organizations and programs that provide services to the Tucson Native American community will hold a health fair. Vendors will present Native American cultural demonstrations and entertainment will be provided through drumming groups and singers.
“This is a bittersweet series of events,” according to Beyond organizers. “We hope our efforts will motivate people from all walks of life to come together to embrace the goodness and decency of our community, creating something good and lasting out of tragedy.”