The New Heritage and Visitors Center opened at about the same time that the multimillion-dollar renovation was completed on the Old Pima County Courthouse. This renovation included a massive renovation as well as the New Visitors’ Center Headquarters, the Chamber of Commerce (VisitTucson.org), and the Alfie Norville Mineral Museum. Shortly thereafter, the January 8th Memorial to the victims of the shooting on this day in 2011 was commemorated.
On this day in Tucson, 6 people died, and 13 others were injured, including then Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Jim Tucker our docent for a tour of the Memorial. Jim had contacted us over the summer to discuss the Memorial and the events surrounding what has just become one of the first of a long string of events that unfortunately has become our reality. Jim was severely injured that day as he stood in line to speak to the congresswoman. His wife was not injured physically. Both continue to work through some form of PTSD.
At lunch, the 4 of us discussed a number of issues, setting aside politics for the moment. One of them was the Memorial itself. This was something that having first seen it without any context, I had passed right through, not noticing or being brought to understand what it was trying to portray. Later, trying to wrap my head around how to relate to this all, we asked Jim Tucker to give us a short tour of the Memorial. Jim volunteers at the Heritage and Visitors Center. As a survivor, we thought he might add some additional perspective to this enigma of a Memorial.
Jim’s voice was soft and strained due to his injuries. He provided us with a ‘Cheet Sheet’ explaining the symbols and was able to give us some further information about the people who were injured and lost their lives that day. The symbols are representations of what these people were and are about. I would have liked to see one word under these symbols to describe what we were looking at, to gain insight and a better understanding. The architects of this memorial thought differently; that symbols were, perhaps heritage in this area.
In hindsight, it was impossible to embrace “The Embrace” without a guidebook and the pamphlet that Jim was thoughtful to provided to us. One cannot simply walk in and about this place without studying it first. It is a masterpiece of Symbolism. Be sure to watch the video and read the information about the symbols before visiting this enigma of a Memorial. Visit the page about the January 8th Memorial Site first, in order to have a better idea of what you are about to see. There are some QR codes scattered around and a few signs explaining the gardens outside of the Memorial, but they a minimal, like the rest of the memorial. I am hoping for a booklet of information to be offered by the Visitors Center in the future to better understand what the architects envisioned. – Ms. Karen