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Candlelight vigil commemorates Tucson shooting

A small group of mourners, many friends of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords or her deceased aide, Gabe Zimmerman, held a candlelight vigil Saturday evening at the State Capitol remembering the Tucson shootings of a year ago.

Giffords vigil

Citizens came together Saturday night to remember the victims of the Tucson shooting one year ago. The candlelight vigil was held on the lawn of the Arizona State Capital building in Phoenix.

A year ago, hundreds of Valley residents converged at the Arizona State Capitol, reeling from the high profile shooting in Tucson.

About 25 people gathered on the House Lawn Saturday evening to remember the Jan. 8 shooting at a Tucson Safeway.

Jared Lee Loughner is charged with numerous federal and state crimes including the attempted assassination of Giffords and the death of one of her staffers, Gabe Zimmerman.

Many of the people at Saturday’s candlelight vigil knew and worked with Giffords or Zimmerman.

Diane Umstead, a state advocate for children, met Zimmerman in 2005 when he was still a social work student at ASU.

The two traveled around southern Arizona teaching childcare centers how to effectively advocate for the children in their care before Zimmerman went to work on Giffords’ campaign.

“I believe that his death and his life story caused us all to pause and react on how we should interact with the world and with each other,” Umstead said.

For about an hour and a half, attendees stood in a circle holding candles, spending time in reflective silence as well as sharing memories of the deceased.

Former State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who vacated her Senate seat on Jan. 3 to run for U.S. Congress, planned Saturday’s vigil.

“(Giffords) has really just been an inspiration to me my whole career,” Sinema said.

The two had served together in the Arizona State Legislature; Giffords was a member of the State Senate while Sinema served in the State House of Representatives.

Sinema also knew Zimmerman when he was an intern at the capitol.

Dana Marie Kennedy, a former colleague of Zimmerman, said she found out about the shootings from CNN. She was preparing for an event she was running that day when she saw the breaking news come across the screen.

“I lost it right then and there,” she said.

Kennedy knew Giffords from living in Tucson and said she went to her event believing initial reports that Giffords had died.

Kennedy said she was relieved when she received a text message stating Giffords survived but she was devastated when the next message said Zimmerman had been killed.

The Capitol hosted the vigil because it was the place in Phoenix most associated with Giffords and Zimmerman.

“You kind of get used to it, but this weekend brought it all back in my mind,” Sinema said. “But I want to focus on the good stuff, like how strong people have been and how this had brought us together.”

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