Given the tragic spate of mass shootings in recent years, we’ve perhaps become inured to the sight that inevitably follows: makeshift shrines to the victims comprised of flowers, plush animals, notes and candles. One such memorial sprang up at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., following the January 2011 shooting that resulted in the death of six and the wounding of 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But what made this memorial unique was what happened after it had effectively served its purpose: it was recycled.
Meg Johnson and Brad Holland, neighbors of Ms. Giffords, were in the process of organizing a community garden on a vacant lot in their neighborhood when the shooting occurred. They and other volunteers took it upon themselves to sort through a moving van full of materials from the memorial, honoring the victims by salvaging and recycling as much of it as possible. That included replanting viable flower bulbs, using plastic bouquet note holders as crop identifiers, and archiving notes and signs. Stuffed animals were donated and the unusable organic material was composted.
Two years later, the garden still harbors many thriving plants from the memorial.