Jan. 8, 2012— -- Bells will ring 19 times this morning, once for each victim of the Tucson shooting that happened one year ago today, ushering in an emotional day of remembrance that will culminate this evening in a candlelight vigil attended by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.
"Congresswoman Giffords wanted to be back in Tucson for this very emotional weekend," said Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, in a statement.
What was supposed to be an ordinary January morning in Tucson turned into a nightmare that has haunted those who experienced the terror when Jared Lee Loughner, 22, unleashed a barrage of bullets on the crowd, after sending the first one straight through the back of Giffords' head.
After hitting the Congresswoman, Loughner continued to fire from his Glock semi-automatic pistol without discrimination, hitting 18 more people.
Among those hit, six people died, including Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' outreach director who organized the Congress On Your Corner event where he was shot to death; John Roll, 63, a federal judge; Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; and Christina Taylor-Green, 9.
As the first anniversary approached, seven survivors of the massacre stepped forward and shared their recollection of Jan. 8, 2011, with the Fix Gun Checks campaign, a byproduct of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign, which seeks to keep criminals from illegally obtaining guns.
"Things went gray for me. I could just see shadows," Randy Gardner said in the video, which was posted online. Gardner was shot in his right foot while waiting to speak with Giffords.
"People were just spreading out in front of me like a wave, trying to go for cover, falling in the ground," he recalled.
Nancy Bowman, a nurse who was only a few steps inside the Safeway when Loughner opened fire at 10:11 a.m., said the scene was a "war zone" and that there was nothing in her 30 year career that could have prepared her for the carnage she witnessed.
"It makes you appreciate every single day," she said in the video. "It makes you wonder why you were five seconds into the Safeway and not standing right there where the gunman was.
What it sure to be a sad and trying day for the victims and the community will close with a ray of hope.
Before tonight's vigil, President Obama called Giffords to say that the entire nation, continues to join her in mourning those lost" and that she is "an inspiration to his family and Americans across the country," according to a statement.