Bell rings as victims of Jan. 8 attack remembered 9 years later
The bell rang, sharp and quick, piercing the bright sunlight of a Wednesday morning. Once, twice, six times, then again: 19 times in all, once for each person shot on a similar bright, clear Tucson morning nine years ago.
The hands of Cpt. Lance Cullumber were nervous before he stood up to ring the shining silver bell at a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the Jan. 8, 2011, attack. Dressed in a crisp honor-guard uniform, the Northwest Fire District firefighter smoothed his white gloves, resting one hand atop the other.
Afterward, his handshake was firm when speaking with a reporter, but the solemnity of the moment was apparent.
Cullumber, representing the department that responded to the scene of the assassination attempt that Saturday nine years ago, briskly rang the bell as Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald, chaplain of Banner University Medical Center, read the names of those who were killed and wounded.
As with each of the bell-ringing ceremonies that have marked the anniversary of the shooting attack, the list began with the youngest victim, starting at 10:10 a.m., the moment the first shots interrupted a peaceful morning.
The bright sound of the bell echoed quickly in the courtyard of the Historic Pima County Courthouse.
The crowd of about 150 people were silent, no longer whispering to each other.
Judge John Roll.
Fitzgerald read the names smoothly, without waiting for each peal to die out.
The sound of each stroke of the bell, mounted on a small stand at waist level and set up next to a lectern in the courtyard of the reworked building next to where a permanent memorial for the victims is being constructed, was cut off by the next strike of the clapper just as it began to fade.
Fitzgerald read the names of those who were wounded, and survived the gunman's rampage at a constituent event held by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a grocery store on the Northwest Side. Cullumber struck the bell as the reverend read each name:
Bill Badger. Ron Barber. Kenneth Dorushka. James Fuller, Randy Gardner, Gabrielle Giffords, Susan Hileman, George Morris, Mary Reed, Pam Simon, Mavanell "Mavy" Stoddard. Jim Tucker. Kenneth Veeder.
Many of those survivors were present Wednesday, as they have been for each of the annual remembrances. So too were the families of those who were killed.
Barber, who was Giffords' district director when he was shot twice on Jan. 8, and went on to be her hand-picked successor in Congress before losing a nail-biter election, spoke on behalf of the January 8th Memorial Foundation.
The memorial being built represents an embrace, he said, "and embraced is what we all felt and still feel" from the Tucson community.
Both Barber and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero spoke about the "resilience" shown by Tucsonans following the attack — "a hallmark of Tucson going back decades," he said.
"This memorial will not only honor the victims and survivors," said Barber, now the district director for U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. "But also law enforcement personnel, the EMTs, the doctors and the citizens who came to our aid."
Barber noted that legislation was being introduced in Congress on Wednesday to establish the memorial — due to be completed in time for the 10th anniversary next year — as a national memorial affiliated with the National Park System.
"Everyone in Tucson remembers where exactly where they were that day," Romero said, noting that Wednesday was a "sunny, gorgeous morning just like it was nine years ago."
"That day, we lost our innocence as a city," she said. "Afterwards, we rose up and became one, one Tucson family."
Romero called for new legislation to stem gun violence, echoing the words of a "fearless leader" in Giffords' call to "fight, fight, fight."
"Fight for better behavioral health care," she said. "Fight for the protection of our children."
Giffords, who was accompanied by her husband, U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly, did not address the audience, but was exchanging embraces and quiet words with fellow survivors and community leaders before and after the ceremony.
National memorial bill
The measure to add the Tucson memorial to the list of national memorials was introduced by Kirkpatrick, along with U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva and Tom O'Halleran, and U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally. The rest of the Arizona congressional delegation — Reps. Andy Biggs, Ruben Gallego, Debbie Lesko, David Scheiwkert and Greg Stanton — signed on as original co-sponsors.
"The heartbreaking attack that took place nine years ago today didn't just impact my hometown of Tucson, it shook the nation. The memorial will honor the victims but also celebrate the resilience of my community, and that resilience deserves to be elevated," said Kirkpatrick. "I am proud to work with my Arizona colleagues on introducing this legislation shining a light, nationally, on the good resilience that can defeat hateful violence."
"Nine years ago today, a horrific attack in Tucson shook our community to the core. As Americans, we must all stand united against these senseless acts of violence on our representative government," said McSally, whose Senate seat is being challenged Kelly. "Our bill will allow for a permanent January 8th memorial as a tribute to the lives lost and as a reminder of what makes our method of governing so great."