Many people gathered at the James D. Kriegh Park on Jan. 7 to participate in the Oro Valley Family Fun Day. The event was one of nearly 40 others sponsored by BEYOND: Commemorate, Celebrate, Commit; a coalition organized by Gabe Zimmerman’s family and friends to develop outreach plans encouraging community members to come out into Tucson’s public lands to strengthen the sense of community, and to take advantage of Tucson’s beautiful spaces, with the full awareness that getting out and active with others promotes physical and mental health.
The events on Saturday were also intended for the community to celebrate and remember the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 8 shootings.
The opening of the ceremony occurred at the statue, The Angel of Steadfast Love, for a moment of silence, during which Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath emphasized that this was a celebration.
“We are here today to remember those who we lost on Jan. 8,” said Hiremath. “But it’s not just about honoring and remembering the victims, it’s also about honoring and celebrating those qualities of compassion, integrity and kindness that they possessed.”
James D. Kriegh Park is a particularly significant place because it is the park where the youngest victim, Christina-Taylor Green, used to play baseball. Over the last year, not only has the field been dedicated to her, but also, The Angel of Steadfast Love was erected in her memory.
Having been born on Sept. 11, Green was a symbol of hope. After the shootings last year, the statue was constructed to pay homage to both tragedies. The angel contains materials from all four areas of the Sept. 11 tragedy—The Pentagon, Port Authority, The Twin Towers, and stones from the field where flight #93 crashed.
According to Hiremath, it is one of seven that exist in the nation, and is the only piece of art to incorporate material from all areas from the Sept. 11 tragedy.
After the mayor’s opening remarks, Robert Carmona, project manager for The Town of Oro Valley, announced the schedule of events.
Some of the activities included crafts with the Oro Valley Public Library, nature walks, Tai Chi, and family fun with Oro Valley Parks and Recreation, which included games like kickball, wiffle ball, volleyball and racquetball.
When asked about his expectations for the day, Carmona said, “I hope everyone comes outside with their family to enjoy a perfect day here in Oro Valley. This event allows for healing and celebration, but the most important thing is that we are with each other.”
Carmona also said he anticipated attendance to be around 200 people.
One of the most popular events was the creation of public art, where attendees participated in the welding of metal flowers to make a community garden. Artist Tidhar Ozeri came up with the idea because he wanted people of all generations to be able to connect with the victims and survivors of Jan 8. He contacted their families and asked them to submit images of flowers that they felt particularly connected to.
“Flowers represent a universal sign of growth and healing, whether it’s to express condolences, concern or celebration,” said Ozeri’s wife Nancy, when asked about why flowers were chosen as the symbol for the project. “Flowers come from the earth and are connected to all things living.”
This idea came to fruition when metal was donated, and as volunteers helped precut the shapes and designs that were used on Saturday.
This, along with the help of hammers, chisels, anvils, pliers, vices and jigs, enabled children and adults of all ages to partake in making the flowers. Two welding stations were also assembled and people were permitted to weld their own final products.
The Ozeri’s have big plans for this communal garden; after this weekend, they are preparing to have children from various schools around Tucson help paint the flowers. The flowers will then be turned into a sculpture and go on permanent display somewhere in Tucson. The location has yet to be determined.
Paul and Lisa Petrass were one of many families present during the afternoon. They said they had many reasons for participating in Family Fun Day.
“I volunteered for Gabby making phone calls, putting together envelopes, and going door-to-door,” said Paul. “It’s almost overwhelming how many events are going on today. I’m really glad to see that the community is remembering.”
Hiremath was also very pleased with the community’s response.
“To see this many people come out to celebrate the best qualities of humanity really means a lot to me as mayor,” he said.