Memory keeper tasked with Jan. 8 tributesFriday, June 17, 2011 By Adam Carrillo
It was a sunny Saturday morning on Jan. 8 when a young man wearing a hoodie arrived via taxi at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was hosting a community event. Shortly after, she and 12 others were wounded and six were killed. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was arrested at the scene after being tackled by bystanders. For the next few weeks, the lawn at University Medical Center where Giffords was being treated served as a refuge for grieving and healing. People left cards, posters, balloons, stuffed animals, candles, flowers, drawings and gifts to support and honor the victims. The site of the shooting and the congresswoman’s office also had memorial sites. Once Giffords was relocated to a different hospital and victims’ conditions improved enough for them to return home, the media and the public’s visits to the memorial became less frequent. It was at this time that Chrystal Carpenter, an archivist at the University of Arizona library, was chosen to pick up the pieces from the memorial sites. “We would like the public to know we are honored to have (the memorial) and we’re taking good care of it until the community decides what they would like to be done with it,” said UMC spokeswoman Katie Riley. According to Carpenter, a committee will decide on the final location where the archived items will be stored. Carpenter, who graduated from the UA with a master’s degree in Library Science, said she was “humbled” when chosen for the job. “It was kind of by chance that Giffords’ office found me, but I feel honored to be able to do this,” she said. One boy set out his lunch money on UMC’s lawn in hopes of aiding the recovering congresswoman. “It was so heartwarming to see what people had set out, but at the same time it was very tragic,” Carpenter said. “I have to zone out. Otherwise it is very emotional and difficult to complete what I am doing.” Carpenter worked alongside 20 to 30 people to collect and pack up the items from the three sites. They began by drying off and wrapping some of the items. It is too early in the archiving process to estimate when the job will be completed, Carpenter said. For now, everything has been boxed and stored at UMC for her to archive.