How A Community Created A Garden From Sadness
Meg Johnson and Brad Holland were behind the effort to replant the memorials’ flowers and plants. They also used the plastic sticks that hold cards in potted plants for crop labels. Photo by Ted Robbins/NPR.
The wounds from the shooting — emotional and physical — took longer to heal than the garden took to grow.
By Ted Robbins
January 04, 2013
Brad Holland had big plans for the empty lot he owns in midtown Tucson, Ariz.
“This was going to be my dream house before the economy collapsed,” Holland says. “I had a big empty lot and said, ‘Wow, a lot of good can come out of this.’ ”
He and the neighborhood decided to turn it into a community garden. 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, candles, signs, pictures and flowers piled up in front of the hospital, the shooting site and her district office. Her staff knew the shrines had to come down sometime, but they couldn’t bring themselves to throw it all away. A month after the shooting, neighbors gathered at the garden to go through a moving van full of mementos.
“I was in charge of getting the volunteers in the neighborhood to go through the plant material,” says Meg Johnson, who has one of the garden plots. “So we literally took apart every bouquet and every potted plant. The bulbs were saved.”