Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords prepares to place flowers at a small memorial in Tucson with her husband Mark Kelly outside the Safeway grocery store where six people were killed and Giffords herself was shot in the head. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
Three years after a gunman killed six people and wounded 13 others at a congresswoman's outdoor meeting with the public, officials in Tucson have unveiled plans for a memorial downtown to honor the victims.
Former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords suffered a devastating head wound in the attack outside a supermarket where she was holding a meet-and-greet event with constituents. Giffords, a Democrat, survived but left Congress and continues to recover from her injuries.
Marking the third anniversary Wednesday of the 2011 mass killing, Pima County supervisors approved a resolution providing space for a permanent January 8th Memorial, Stephen Brigham, head of the foundation that will build the memorial, said.
The site will be at the historic county courthouse and adjacent to El Presidio Park in downtown Tucson.
"It's just a perfect fit for this kind of memorial,'' said Brigham, who heads the January 8th Memorial Foundation and is director of capital planning and projects with the University of Arizona Health Network.
"We've been evaluating different sites around Tucson and Pima County,'' he said. "We always came back downtown. ... It's the heart of the city, the heart of the community.''
Now that a site has been selected, Brigham said, the next step is a fundraising campaign with a tentative goal of $10 million.
He said he hopes the memorial will incorporate museum exhibits displaying many of the messages and works of art that were left at various makeshift memorials around the city following the shootings.
Giffords is not part of the memorial foundation but has been supportive of its efforts, Brigham said.
"She is an inspiration for us. This was about her effort to bring Congress to our local corner,'' he said.
Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, live in Tucson. They have founded a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to support legal limits on guns and counter the lobbying power of the gun industry and pro-gun advocates.
Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced in November 2012 to seven consecutive life sentences plus 140 years after pleading guilty to 19 federal charges in the shooting.
Giffords' successor in Congress, Rep. Ron Barber, a Democrat who was on her staff and among those wounded in the attack, said the memorial will "remind the world what happened here" and "what happened afterward: the kindness, the caring and the love that came forward.''
The anniversary will be marked in Tucson with bell-ringing, flag-raising ceremonies and church events.
"Tucsonans will never forget that day," Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said. "But it is more important that we never forget the victims. Those we lost contributed greatly to this community and are greatly missed."
Contributing: Associated Press