First responders from Northwest Fire District gather in the Safeway parking lot around 10:11 a.m. Sunday.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

One year after the shooting which marked Jan. 8 as a tragic day, The Northwest Fire District Interagency Corps of Chaplains sponsored Moving Forward, an honorary ceremony which recognized public service personnel for their dedication to the community on Sunday.

Held at the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene, Tucson and American flags flew high as bagpipes were played to honor those in public service, and to those killed last Jan. 8.

The ceremony was populated with dozens of policemen, firemen, military personnel, hospital staff, and others. Chaplain Bert Rucker of the Northwest Fire District introduced the Corps’ support team for those public service employees who are involved in tragedies.

“When a crisis occurs, much like occurred one year ago, it’s our job to monitor the people involved in these critical incidents,” said Rucker. “If they are having any problems or issues, we are there for support and encouragement and to help them through the crisis.”

Originally, the support team organized the ceremony to honor those who acted as first responders to the shooting.

“As we got information back, that’s not what they wanted,” said Rucker. “They wanted to heal. They wanted to move on. They wanted to move forward.”

Made up of policemen, firemen, border patrol agents, and others, the support group decided instead to honor all who serve the public, while still emphasizing the importance of first responders.

“Events can go from bad to worse for no reason at all, and with no explanation,” said Sergeant Rodney Hamilton of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. “When those bad days happen, we respond to those situations as we are trained to do. We have also discovered an inner courage and resolve in others that we did not know was there. From citizens, neighbors, coworkers, family members, and the everyday person you meet on the street.”

Before singing “One More Day,” Shane Clark, Fire Chief of the 162nd Fighter Wing, talked about the fragility of life, and reiterated the willingness of those in the field to be the first on scene of a tragedy.

“This song is to remind us as first responders that we give families that we respond to one more day to be with their loved ones,” said Clark. “This song is also for us. In our profession, we go to work, we do our job in a very dangerous profession, and then we also get to spend another day with our loved ones.”

The families and citizens who have supported those in the fields of public service were recognized by Chaplain Tim LaPorte of the Picture Rocks Fire Department. LaPorte encouraged the actions, which have helped turn Jan. 8 into a day that is also remembered for its positive turnaround.

“We have great appreciation for your deep connection with this public safety family. Maintaining the families is the most important thing we do,” said LaPorte. “I want to encourage you to continue to love one another, to care for one another.”

The ceremony closed with the audience singing “Amazing Grace,” and filing outside to listen to the bagpipes play once again with flags still waving high as a reminder that after tragedy struck, it has been the love, the generosities, and the support, which have truly defined Tucsonans one year later.

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