Remembrance: makeshift memorials spring up in Tucson

What happened outside an Arizona supermarket has literally changed the landscape of Tucson, as friends and neighbors and strangers create places to remember, and to mourn.

The New York Times explores some of them:

There are stuffed animals of all possible species and notes written by children in crayon. There are inspiring biblical verses, photographs of the departed and candles summoning a plethora of saints. The somber, sprawling memorial outside University Medical Center has become the focal point for Tucson’s grief.

But it is not the only one. At the Safeway supermarket where a gunman opened fire on a group gathered to meet Representative Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8, outside the wounded congresswoman’s district office, at the entrance to the school where one victim attended third grade, makeshift memorials are popping up across this shell-shocked community.

“It’s 100 percent unorganized,” said Karen Mlawsky, the chief executive of University Medical Center, where crowds swelled into the hundreds Monday on the Martin Luther King’s Birthday holiday to honor the dead. “It’s been spontaneous, and it changes every day. Right now, there are 75 people on the lawn. Some of them are crying. Many have brought their children.”

As Tucson grieves, there are already discussions on erecting permanent memorials to the six who died. Ms. Mlawsky said the hospital intended to put up a shrine. Proposals being floating include naming a university building after one victim and a school and baseball field after another. Scholarships are being set up and food drives organized in victims’ names.

Meanwhile, everyday people are creating remembrances of their own, one bouquet of flowers or handwritten tribute at a time. “Fight Gabby Fight,” read a sign on the hospital lawn, not far scores of others that thank the doctors and lament the loss of Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim, and the other five who lost their lives.

“There is so little one can do after something so awful, and people feel this is something,” Jim Griffith, a retired Tucson ethnographer, said of the makeshift memorials. “Some people are trying to communicate with God or the saints or whoever they communicate with. Some want to send a message to Gabby. There are nuances of meaning that differ from person to person to person.”

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