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January 8th Memorial to be dedicated Friday in small, pandemic-safe ceremony
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January 8th Memorial to be dedicated Friday in small, pandemic-safe ceremony

An aerial view from November shows construction on the January 8th Memorial next to the historic Pima County Courthouse. The finished memorial will be dedicated Friday.

Coronavirus concerns have dramatically reduced the size of Friday’s dedication ceremony for Tucson’s January 8th Memorial.

Organizers originally envisioned a large affair to unveil the permanent memorial at the Historic Pima County Courthouse downtown on the 10th anniversary of the 2011 mass shooting.

Instead, only a handful of people will gather at the site shortly before 10 a.m. Friday.

“It’s not the event we planned, which would have included hundreds of people,” said Pam Simon, a former staffer for then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was wounded in the shooting and played a key role in the development of the memorial.

Though closed to the public, the ceremony is expected to be shown on Pima County’s Facebook page and carried live by several local television stations.

According to a county news release, the dedication will begin with a presentation of flags by an honor guard from the Northwest Fire District, Pima County Sheriff’s Department and other first responders.

That will be followed by an opening prayer from Rev. Joe Fitzgerald, Banner University Medical Center chaplain, and remarks by shooting survivor and former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who now serves as president of the January 8th Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Images and audio of Pima County Sheriff's Department communications during the Jan. 8, 2011 shootings at the Safeway at Ina and Oracle north of Tucson. Produced by Rick Wiley / Arizona Daily Star

Bells will ring at exactly 10:10 a.m. to coincide with when the first shots were fired.

The ceremony will also include an eight-minute video, produced by Pima County’s Communications Office, about the shooting, the development of the memorial, and the reactions to it from some of the survivors and family members of victims who have toured it.

The theme of the memorial is “The Embrace,” and it pays tribute to the six people killed and the 13 people wounded in the attack, as well as the first responders and the community’s response to the tragedy.

The project was built with $2.6 million raised by Tucson’s January 8th Foundation, a non-profit established in 2012 for that purpose.

The almost-1-acre installation was created by the team of Chee Salette architects, artist Rebeca Mendez, historical researcher Jackie Kain and lighting consultants agLicht, whose concept was chosen in 2015 after a national design competition.

The January 8 Memorial, "The Embrace", will open on the anniversary of the mass shooting in 2011 to commemorate the 19 victims. The memorial is on the west side of the Old Pima County Courthouse in El Presidio Park. Video by Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star 2020

Depending on the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, county officials hope to open the memorial to the public by early February.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he is hopeful that whatever was originally planned for this year can be held instead on Jan. 8, 2022.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 520-573 4283. On Twitter: @RefriedBrean

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