I ended up unintentionally driving past UMC today, and decided on impulse to stop and see the memorial. Of course I didn't have my camera with me, so these were all taken on my awful cell phone camera. I thought those of you who haven't gotten the chance to see it in person might wish to see what I saw.
The biggest surprise, for me, is that there were very few messages of grief, fewer still of anger or hostility. They were almost entirely messages of love, of a desire for positive change. I had heard, I thought, that much of it was in honor of Christina Green, but I saw her name about as often as I did the other six who died. I am glad that they all were honored.
The front of the hospital. The flags at half-mast are a fitting backdrop to the memorial, I think.
"We were targeted, we were hit, but we will NOT be destroyed!!! Arizonans coming together." I feel like, in a lot of ways, this was the theme of the entire thing.
"Together we, our town, state, and nation, can get throgh this."
"I hopp ewe buttay gets better in the hosbdoy." So cute.
I can't read all of it, but "May the Great Spirit bless them" is part of it. I saw several different faiths represented, which made me happy.
Something about this note felt particularly heartfelt. There were hundreds if not thousands of the tall, thin candles of the kind with pictures of the Virgin Mary on them, such as the one holding down this note.
A large metal sculpture of what I took to be a butterfly. The butterfly image was repeated quite often, in balloons and drawings and photographs; the symbolism is, I think, particularly nice: the hope of Gabby emerging from her cocoon.
When people had not brought signs or papers or other things, they resorted to what was there. This message and several others was written in crayon on the slab of concrete over the gutter, with the crayons left so others could write there too.
A fabric daisy chain had been used to make a barrier.
The candles, while gorgeous at night, appear to be quite hard to maintain. Someone thought for permanence and left solar-powered lamps.
The scope of the memorial is amazing--too big to fit in the frame of my camera phone. This is the portion in front, by the road.
A message to Gabby's husband, supporting him.
L'chaim, a traditional Jewish toast that means "to life," seemed to me a particularly appropriate sentiment. (At least, I assume that's what it says, given that it looks to be translated underneath.)
This box was stuffed. I wrote something on a halfsheet from the clipboards next to it and shoved my wish in as well.
Someone had tied a flag to the "fire lane" sign on the right side of the memorial.
An attempt to get a shot of the whole thing. It borders the entire rectangle of the grassy area, with undulating sections in the middle, including a path on one side. People are setting up the stuff so as much of the well-wishing can be seen as possible.
It's hard to read, now, but it's something like, "We will miss you Bean (?), more than you know." This one struck me because it seemed so much more personal than many of the others. I think the top of the paper was addressed to Gabe Zimmerman.
"We have seen too many stars to let the darkness overwhelm us. Keep shining Gabby." The stars attached to the wings have the names of all of the victims, both surviving and deceased. I loved this one especially.
You can see in this shot that the grass is worn down around the places where people have left things, and where others have walked by to see it.
"Thank you for teaching us to love again, laugh, and believe. We love you all." The messages were often along these lines: incredibly hopeful and positive.
Another shot of the front portion of the memorial.
The line of cans reads "DONATE IN GABBY'S NAME!" She is, apparently, a big supporter of the food banks. There was a box for donations that I didn't get a shot of that was completely stuffed with food. People had piled grocery bags up around it, too.
A statue of Buddha.
"Hate is easy. Love takes courage." Many of the messages were written on tiles like this, implying the wish for permanence.
A wreath with a sash reading "U.S. House of Representatives." I was amused that the officials had contributed to this sort of grassroots expression, and glad for the smiley heart balloon in the middle--it made it look less like a funeral wreath.
"Heal the world," spelled out in tealights.
A rock garden of well wishes. When the breeze came, they fluttered like birds.
Something poignant about the fact that this person used the rock itself for their message--and I think it's written using a match or burnt stick.
There were many, many messages from children. I particularly liked this poster. "I hope you ful bettr" is about how I feel, too.
I hope so.
A view of about half of it from farther back. I overheard someone saying that the wind took away many of the balloons recently, and that people from the hospital had come out and started taking away any of the flowers not in pots in an attempt to "clean up." I saw a ton of flowers and balloons; if this is the diminished version, I am even more impressed.
I overheard someone else saying that every day it gets significantly bigger. Now that Gabby is getting transferred to Houston for treatment, I wonder what will happen to it--it will break my heart if it is simply thrown away. So much goodness deserves to be kept around.
The sea of news vans. The various cameras and crews were spaced out around the memorial so they could use it as a background. Their fake lighting and crisp suits and makeup-ed faces contrasted quite oddly with the sincerity of the memorial.
I hope that people, especially those not from Tucson or Arizona, see these pictures and realize that, despite this horrific event, there is much that is good and hopeful here, too.