In the 3 years since the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, a small memorial garden has been built near the spot and political activity has returned once again to this tragic place outside a Safeway grocery in the northern part of Tucson.
Giffords, a former Congresswoman, suffered a head wound and six others attending her “Congress on Your Corner” meeting were killed.
The Safeway is still there at the southeast corner of busy Ina and Oracle Roads, 8 miles north of the city center. And by all signs on Easter Sunday the store was doing a good business despite the dismal history.
As you walk toward the store from the parking lot, you can not miss a small plot of bright flowers and a large stone on the north side of the Safeway’s entrance. Two white lilies sprout from a pot in front of the stone. There is no garish sign to inform you what this is all about. It is only when you walk around to the stone by the sidewalk that you get a hint of what happened here, but only a hint. A plaque attached to the stone says:
Honoring the victims of the event of January 8, 2011 / The Tucson Tragedy . . . / we shall never forget.
Beneath the message is a line of 13 stars then “Safeway” and the company’s logo.
That is it.
No mention of Giffords or the dead — Christina Green, age 9, Dorothy “Dot” Morris, 76, John Roll, 63, Phyllis Schneck, 79, Dorwan Stoddard, 76, Gabrielle “Gabe” Zimmerman, 30. No mention of the 12 others wounded. No mention of the deranged shooter, Jared Loughner, who is in a Springfield, MO, prison serving seven consecutive life sentences.
One could argue the memorial is tasteful and horribly incomplete.
About 10 yards to the south of the memorial, on the other side of the Safeway entrance, stands Robin Auld. He appears to be a man in his 60s, tanned and dressed smartly in a striped tie and long-sleeve purple shirt, a color that some connote with Easter. He is gathering signatures to run in the primary elections later this year as a Democratic candidate for Justice of the Peace in Precinct #1. So says the fold-out sign on the sidewalk. His “signing desk” is one of the store’s brown wastebaskets. Some Safeway customers seem eager to sign only to discover they are ineligible because they live outside Auld’s district.
Auld is amenable to a photo.
“Are you a reporter?” he asks. When I say, no, he looks disappointed. He lets me shoot my photo anyway. On reflection, I suppose the camera could have held a handgun. Maybe a Glock like Loughner used. I could have been an assassin. But Auld doesn’t appear concerned. Instead, he looks for his next signature coming in from the parking lot.
Auld said he was aware of the memorial so close to where he stands and, as I mention it, he sees the significance immediately.
“I’m probably the first politician to campaign here in three years,” he said.
Life goes on. Memories flee. And now things are back to normal in front of the Safeway. For now, anyway.