National 9/11 flag highlights Tucson shooting spree remembrance

2011-07-08T11:00:00Z 2011-07-08T12:39:03Z National 9/11 flag highlights Tucson shooting spree remembranceStephanie Innes, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 08, 2011 11:00 am  • 

The national 9/11 flag hung from a Northwest Fire Department ladder truck this morning as a small crowd stood in a moment of silence for the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting tragedy.

The crowd gathered in  front of the northwest side Safeway supermarket where the shooting rampage erupted six months ago.

"It's still a slideshow in my head, not a moving picture," said Tony Compagno, a Northwest Fire Department paramedic who was one of the first medical personnel on the scene of the shooting that morning. "All the people, that's what got me. There were so many people."

Six people died that morning, and 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were injured.

The Northwest Fire Department honor guard joined firefighters from the Fire Department of New York City in unfolding the flag as it was hoisted up by the ladder truck. The flag has become an image of survival after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

  The 20-by-30-foot flag was mostly destroyed in the attack on the twin towers on Sept, 11, 2001, which is also the day 9-year-old shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green was born. The flag first came to Tucson on the day of Christina-Taylor's funeral.

  Today, the New York Says Thank You Foundation will be at Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus sewing Arizona patches onto the flag. The public is welcome to help.

  "This is one of the very few things from 9/11 we can actually fix," New York City firefighter Jimmy Sands said, as he spoke to the crowd this morning.

  After a moment of silence, the flag was taken down and folded up again. As he watched it, retired U.S. Army National Guard Col. Bill Badger held his right hand to his head in a salute. Badger was one of three civilians who helped restrain suspected shooter Jared Loughner Jan. 8. The civilians are credited with preventing Loughner from shooting more people that day.

Others in the crowd included Giffords' staff members Pam Simon and Mark Kimble. Both Simon and Kimble witnessed the shooting, and Simon was seriously wounded. Both were visibly emotional during the moment of silence for the victims, who included 30-year-old Giffords staff member Gabe Zimmerman. Zimmerman died at the scene that day as he ran to help his colleagues.

Giffords, shot clear through the left side of her brain, continues to recover in Houston. Her husband, Mark Kelly, acknowledged the six-month anniversary of the shooting on his Facebook page this morning, saying that like her constituents, Giffords is healing and moving forward.

"She has not let this tragedy dampen her optimism or love of life," he wrote.

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