Gabrielle Giffords leads candlelight vigil for first anniversary of Arizona shooting
Published 09/01/2012 | 07:45
GABRIELLE Giffords, the US congresswoman shot in the head at a public meeting in Arizona last year, has led a candlelight vigil for the first anniversary of the shooting.
Thousands gathered for the memorial service in the University of Arizona to remember those killed when 23-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire indiscriminately in a Safeway supermarket last year.
Six people were killed in the rampage and 13 people wounded, including Congresswoman Giffords. Among the people killed were nine-year-old Christina Green, Miss Giffords's aide Gabe Zimmerman, US District Judge John Roll, 76-year-old Dorothy Morris, 76-year-old Dorwan Stoddard, and 79-year-old Phyllis Schneck.
As Miss Giffords, 41, who is still recovering from her injuries, stepped up onto the podium to lead a recitation of the American pledge of Allegiance, she waved and smiled at the crowd. When she spoke, she added emphasis to the final few words, "with liberty and justice for all."
Nineteen candles were lit in tribute to all those affected by the attack.
Her appearance drew a rousing applause from the thousands of people who were watching.
Miss Giffords's husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, stood beside his wife with an arm around her, helping to place and hold her right hand, weakened from paralysis, over her heart as she spoke. The crowd erupted again in cheers when she finished.
Ron Barber, a Giffords staffer who was shot in the attack, also addressed the congregation in tribute to those who had been killed in the shooting.
"Those of us who survived were forever changed by that moment," he said. "For the past year, we've had new realities to live with, the reality and pain of letting go of the past. There's a reality that life is unpredictable, and that even in the best of times, our cherished friends, the good, the caring, the innocent among us, the closest and dearest people we know, can be taken from us."
"There is also the pain of knowing that with adequate mental health care and treatment that we might not be here tonight," he added.
The vigil concluded a series of US memorial events. Earlier in the day, a service was held at a cathedral in Tucson where the names of the victims were read out and single red roses were placed in a vase at the front of the church.
Children laid flowers and candles and around 30 others rang hand-held bells at 10.11am local time to mark the exact time of the shooting. Many bowed their heads in prayer.
"We remember, we remember, we remember with grateful hearts," those gathered chanted together, standing, many closing their eyes.
A day before the memorial, Miss Giffords visited the Safeway supermarket where she was shot in the head that fateful morning. She was pictured pointing at where she had parked the morning of the attack.
Jared Lee Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges and is being forcibly medicated for bipolar disorder at a mental facility in a Missouri prison in an effort to make him fit to stand trial.