Posted: Jan 5, 2012 9:20 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2012 9:34 AM
TUCSON - After the January 8 shootings, hundreds of people left items at several memorial shrines around town - symbols of their love and caring. These were special places, where people could go, to feel connected.
They came out at all hours of the day and night, from all over the state and nation. Whether they knew the victims or not, it was a way for people to connect at a time when we all felt disconnected.
The memorials became the symbol of our community's love and caring, and a testament that as a community, we were better than the horrific act that had been committed.
One of those who came out was Chrystal Carpenter. Weeks later, she would be back out to help collect and store all the mementos.
"I had come to UMC as a regular community member, to light candles and so forth," Chrystal said. "So when I got asked to assist with consultation and moving the items, it was emotional, but at the same time, you had to do your job and make sure that you're going to keep these materials safe, so I kind of had a disconnect for a little while, but if you go back and look at the materials, it's very touching, and it impacted all of us."
Chrystal's job as a congressional archivist for the University of Arizona was to make sure that nothing was left behind, as all the materials were boxed and moved into a climate-controlled storage unit - all 300 boxes-worth.
"It's important for the community, and I think it's also important to remember our recent past going into the future, hopefully to be able to make a positive impact on the world, and also be able to have people never forget this - the horribleness, but also the hope that comes from that," she said.
The question now: what will become of all this material?
"The truth is, we don't really know," says Stephen Brigham, Director of Capital Planning & Projects at University Medical Center. "Whether it's the hospital, the Safeway store, or the congresswoman's office, I think the one agreement we have is that we want this to be a community effort. So we're looking to a group that's been facilitated by Ron Barber and Cox Communications to help with some of the memorial planning, to really talk about the basics of what is a memorial? What is a tribute? What is a commemoration?"
Sitting in a climate controlled locker, the boxes are safe, but Brigham believes it's more important for them to be accessible to the public.
"I think we have a fairly immediate concern that we want these out of the storage locker and into a larger space, unpack them again, let other people see them. Because, right now, it's hard for these to see. Your presence here, videotaping these and showing others what these look like, even though it's a small representation, I think helps remind people what's here in boxes," Brigham said. "It was never intended to be permanent, but because of the emotion and compassion that are shown in these, there are perhaps permanent ideas and emotions we need to be reminded of."
Some of the most poignant material is from schoolchildren, confused by the events of January 8, but hopeful, as only children can be.
Like one from Tabitha, a little girl from Mrs. Tatum's 3rd grade class at Sahuarita Intermediate School.
"This letter is signed by Tabitha, and she says she's a student of Arizona, that's how she signs off," Brigham says. "This one says, ‘your friend,' a lot of them say ‘your friend.' A lot of these students and a lot of the community felt connected to the congresswoman in a very special way, not just because of what happened to her, but I think she's a very special person who connected to a lot of people."
Tune in to News 4 Tucson on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. to watch the complete special: Triumph Over Tragedy - One Year Later.
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