Once the memorials were taken down, Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ neighbors salvaged what they could and created life out of death.
Brad Holland had planned to build his dream home on the big empty lot he purchased in midtown, Tucson, Arizona, before the economy collapsed. Once that dream was no longer within his reach, he decided to turn that big piece of land into a community garden. NPR reports,
There are 21 plots and about 50 gardeners. They were about to till the soil for planting two years ago when a gunman opened fire in another part of town, killing six and wounding 13. Among those wounded in the January 2011 shooting was a neighbor who lived across the street from the garden, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Within days of the shootings, memorials had sprung up at the shooting site, in front of the hospital and at Giffords district office. Everyone knew that the memorials would have to come down eventually, but no one could bring themselves to throw it all away. That is when Holland and another neighbor Meg Johnson had a great idea, why not replant the flowers and plants in the community garden.
A month after the shooting, friends, staff, and neighbors gathered together at the garden to sort through a moving van full of all the flowers and plants gathered from the memorial sites. Johnson said,
I was in charge of getting the volunteers in the neighborhood to go through the plant material. So we literally took apart every bouquet and every potted plant. The bulbs were saved … It took us five Saturdays working three or four hours every Saturday to go through all the material that was here. It was quite a neighborhood event.
Items such as stuffed animals, notes, and cards were all sent to be archived. What organic material that couldn’t be replanted was composted, and even the clear plastic sticks that hold cards in potted plants were recycled to hold crop labels.
The damage caused by the shooting, both physical and emotional, are still healing. The garden however, is thriving. Tucson is blessed with a long growing season, and Holland points out,
The greens are hearty. Here’s the arugula, spinach, kale. The tomato plants are all gone, but we still have tomatoes that are still ripening on the ground.
There is very little to indicate outwardly that the garden was ever a part of the shooting in 2011, but thanks to Mr. Holland and the neighbors who work in the community garden, something wonderful and full of life has grown out of this tragedy.
Photo: Anamorphic Mike/Flickr