Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Embrace

That's the name of the memorial designed by Chee Salette Architecture Office, and selected by the panel of artists and architects and philanthropists and survivors to commemorate and inspire our community when thoughts turn to January 8, 2011.  

The Embrace is a perfect name and a perfect image for how we felt after the shooting.  Random strangers hugging me in the produce aisle, sympathetic smiles from those who make the connection between my name or my face and January 8, but more important, and grander, and worthy of celebration, is the general embrace which Tucson gave itself after that awful Saturday morning.  

Although only 19 of us will be personally remembered, all of Tucson shares a piece of the memory and the memorial itself.  Chee Salette recognized that; there's a living wall with nooks and crevices into which visitors can place seeds.

I can't tell you how happy that makes me.  It's creating new life, moving on, bringing joy and energy to an aching memory. It's forward looking instead of dwelling in the past. 

Of course, there are pieces which tug at the heartstrings, too.  There's a Weeping Wall, with falling water coursing, at random intervals, over the sloping wall separating the memorial from the outside world.  It's right and appropriate for that to be a piece of it; it is, after all, at the very bottom, after all the kudos to first responders and citizen heroes, a monumentally sad event which is at the center of the memorial.  

It's good to be reminded of that, as well.

It's even better to see the splashing fountain jets right near by, with images of children laughing and jumping in puddles... just as I know CTG is doing, right now, in heaven.  The proximity of those two features speaks to the sensitivity of the design team.  

The memorial is one part of a re-envisioned courthouse plaza in downtown Tucson.  There are gardens (6, for the fallen) and specimen trees (13, for the survivors) and lots of shade and benches and low walls for sitting.  There's grass, too, which makes me wonder if the designers have ever spent a summer in the Old Pueblo.  

Inside the to-be-refurbished buildings will be a museum showcasing the spontaneous memorial tributes left at Gabby's office, UMC and the grocery store.  Many of the items have been repurposed by artists near and far, and their treasures will be on display as well.

The whole idea of a memorial was uncomfortable for me for a very long time.  The list of mass shootings is so long that ours is often left off the list.  I wanted to remember the love and the comfort and the healing vibes I felt all day, every day, and still feel, when I'm noticed, nearly 5 years later.  I didn't want the 30 seconds of chaos to be the focus; I didn't see how the warmth of Tucson's love could ever have been portrayed.

I'm glad to say that Chee Salette found a way.

I tried and I tried and ultimately I failed to download specific images from this video.  The images referenced above can be found here:

  • Weeping Wall at minute 2:00
  • Kids Splashing at minute 3:22
  • Refurbished Plaza at minute 3:30
  • 6 Gardens/13 Trees at minute 4:31
  • Living Wall at minute 5:00


  1. OMG, I think I'm going to cry! The butterfly garden for Christina-Taylor. The living wall is just amazing. This memorial will be amazing and such a loving and appropriate tribute.

    I cannot believe it's been five years. It seems like it was not that long ago. Makes me sad too that we have had so many shootings in the past five years. Why can we not stop this? It's upsetting that we have to keep remembering the loss. We shouldn't have the loss in the first place.

    I think this memorial strikes the right tone and is absolutely lovely.


    Megan xxx


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