Thousands of people are expected on the University of Arizona campus today to hear President Barack Obama speak during an event honoring Saturday's shooting victims.
"Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" will begin at 6 p.m. at McKale Memorial Center and is free and open to the public. Doors open at 4 p.m. and attendees are encouraged to arrive early because of increased security and large crowds.
If the 14,000-seat McKale Center reaches capacity, overflow seating will be available in Arizona Stadium, where seats on the stadium's east side will be open. Video of the memorial will be shown on the scoreboard's big screen. Video also will be streamed live on the Arizona Public Media website.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama accepted the UA's invitation to visit Tucson in the wake of Saturday's mass shooting at a Safeway grocery store on Tucson's Northwest side that killed six and injured several others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who remains in critical condition at University Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the head.
Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Giffords' director of community outreach, Gabe Zimmerman, 30; and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.“It’s an honor for any university to have a visit from President and Mrs. Obama,” said UA President Robert N. Shelton. “In our case, their visit comes under unfortunate and sad circumstances; however, their presence will go a long way toward helping the Tucson community heal from the tragedy that happened this weekend.”
Concession stands will be open during the event.
Paper to write messages will be provided to people waiting in line. They will be joined into a paper chain that will be displayed on campus at a later time. The effort is spearheaded by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
"We wanted to represent that every person has their own individual concerns and is grieving in their own way, but we're all comng together and joining in unity and this is the physical representation of that," said ASUA President Emily Fritze, a senior majoring in political science.
Of Obama's visit, Fritze said: "This is an opportunity for us, borne from very very unfortunate circumstances."
"Students are excited and comforted to have the president come and deliver a message to the campus community," she said.
The following streets will be closed to the public on Wednesday: Fred Enke Drive, between North Campbell Avenue and National Championship Drive, and University Boulevard, between North Cherry Avenue and North Campbell Avenue. Parking will be unavailable along Cherry Avenue and in Lot 6098. There will be limited availability in the Cherry Avenue Garage.
Recommended parking areas for the public include campus lots south of Sixth Street, as well as the Sixth Street Garage and Park Avenue Garage. Parking in those areas is free on a first-come, first-served basis. (Campus parking maps are available online.)
Shuttles will be bussing in attendees from Hi Corbett Field and El Con Mall beginning at 2 p.m.
Specific questions about parking can be directed to UA Parking & Transportation Services, 520-626-7275.
Sign language interpreters and captioning will be available at the event, as well as a wheelchair-accessible seating area. Specific questions about access can be directed to the University's Disability Resource Center, 520-621-3268.All attendees will go through airport-like security. For safety and security reasons, certain items are prohibited, including laptop computers, sharp objects and metal or plastic drink bottles. The public is asked to not bring backpacks, bags or large purses. No posters or signs of any size will be permitted. No food or drink can be carried in. Small cameras will be permitted inside.