TUCSON — Bells rang across Tucson on Sunday marking the exact time last year that the city was rocked by a shooting rampage that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded and six people dead.
The bells at 10:11 a.m., the moment of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting, opened a day of remembrance events across Tucson for survivors of the shooting, the victims’ families and city residents.
Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a unannounced visit late Saturday to the supermarket where a gunman pumped a barrage of bullets into a crowd gathered for her congressional outreach meeting.
The gunfire wounded 12 people in addition to Giffords, who was shot in the head and has been recovering at a Houston hospital.
About 200 people gathered at an Anglican church in north Tucson near the scene of the shooting for a service that remembered victims.
“When you think on it, it’s a healing moment,” said Dick Guthrie, a longtime congregant who said he had known Giffords since she was a teenager.
“I hope she continues to improve,” he said.
Gary Huckleberry, whose daughter witnessed the shooting and suffered trauma, said he found the service healing.
“A lot of us have come a long way since that date a year ago. For some people it will take much more time to get over it, but having this service . . . was healing,” he said.
While the bells rang slowly, echoing through the empty downtown streets, a crowd of about 300 people attended a morning Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral. U.S. District Judge John Roll, Giffords’s friend who was killed in the attack, attended lunchtime Mass there every day.
In a call to Giffords, President Obama praised her courage and determination in her recovery and told her that she was “an inspiration to his family and Americans across the country,” according to a White House statement.
Sunday’s events include a service at St. Augustine at 1 p.m. and a tribute at 3 p.m. honoring those killed in the rampage to be held at the University of Arizona’s Centennial Hall.
Accompanied by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords made several unannounced visits around the city Saturday, including the stop at the Safeway store where she was shot.
“Gabby just visited the Safeway for the 1st time since 1/8/11,” Kelly tweeted.
“It’s been a tough year, but we’re lucky to have so many people standing w/us,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Giffords hiked outside Tucson on a desert trail named for her slain aide Gabe Zimmerman and visited University of Arizona Medical Center staff who treated her and others who were wounded.
“I think it’s going to be a very cathartic weekend for all of us here in Tucson to see her in her home town,” said Daniel Hernandez, an intern at Giffords’s office credited with saving her life as she lay bleeding in the Safeway parking lot.
Giffords attended a candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona on Sunday evening with her husband.
Also scheduled to take part in the vigil were Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron and Peter Rhee, chief of trauma, critical care and emergency surgery at the University Medical Center, who treated Giffords and other victims.
Jared Loughner, 23, was arrested at the scene of the shooting and charged with crimes including attempting to assassinate Giffords. He pleaded not guilty.
Found mentally unfit to stand trial, he is being treated in a federal prison hospital in Missouri.