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Tucson honors ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, fellow shooting victims

TUCSON -- Six rocks for the six people who died. Marlene Phillips set them down carefully outside a grocery store Wednesday, three years after a shooting rampage killed six people and injured 13 others including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

It’s a Jewish tradition to leave rocks on the grave of loved ones as a token of remembrance.

“I’m Jewish. It seemed appropriate,” Phillips said.  She’d brought the rocks from her home, near the Catalina mountain range north of the city. She knew Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer who died in the shooting.

Phillips set her head on her friend Peggy Hazard’s shoulder and stared down at the red, peach and white flowers framing a plaque on a rock, memorializing those who lost their lives when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson shopping center on Jan. 8, 2011, during a Giffords event.

“There’s still always this great sadness,” Hazard said.

On Wednesday, people commemorated the tragedy in their own way with memorials throughout the city.

Some attended a flag-raising and honor guard ceremony at a library for the first responders.

Others shared a moment of silence at University of Arizona Medical Center, where many of the injured, including Giffords, were treated.

Three dozen people even participated in a flash mob in downtown Tucson to recognize the tragedy.

A day earlier, officials announced a plan to house a permanent memorial to the victims at the former Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson. The memorial will serve as a permanent home for mementos left at memorial sites in the days after the shooting.

Giffords marked the day by publishing an op-ed in the New York Times and by skydiving in tandem with a friend. Her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said she landed safely. 

"So proud of her bravery," he wrote on Twitter. 

 cindy.carcamo@latimes.com

@thecindycarcamo

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