Tucson shooting victim honored with 9/11 memory - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Tucson shooting victim honored with 9/11 memory

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In this undated file photo provided by the Green family, Christina Green is shown. (AP Photo/Green Family, File) In this undated file photo provided by the Green family, Christina Green is shown. (AP Photo/Green Family, File)

ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) — You think of Christina-Taylor Green when you see the patch of dirt where she scooped grounders at second base in Canyon del Oro Little League. You think of the youngest victim of the Tucson shootings when you see the batter's box where she knocked line drives.

And you think of her when you see the 9-foot, 11-inch-tall silver statue of an angel just beyond the outfield fence.

"It's going to serve as a daily reminder to us that we had the privilege of knowing Christina," said John Ward, who coached her for two years.

The statue was scheduled to be unveiled at a ceremony on Friday, the start of the season.

The angel's hand extends out, its robes appearing to blow in the wind. It is intended to be a symbol of peace after the Jan. 8 shooting that killed five others and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The statue's height holds added significance because the numbers 9 and 11 are prominent in Christina-Taylor's life. She was born on Sept. 11, 2001 — the day of the terrorist attacks — and was featured in a book about other children born that day.

Besides a 5 ½-foot long fragment of an I-beam from ground zero, the Freedom's Steadfast Angel of Love also incorporates a 3 ½-foot-long piece of steel from the Pentagon and a large rock from the Flight 93 crash site, sculptor Lei Hennessy-Owen said.

"It's beautiful," said shooting victim Susan Hileman, 59, who was holding Christina-Taylor's hand when a gunman opened fire at a meet and greet held by Giffords outside a supermarket. Hileman had taken her to the event because the little girl said she was interested in politics.

Hileman and other survivors as well as Christina-Taylor's parents and brother plan to attend the ceremony at James D. Kriegh Park, where Christina-Taylor donned a forest green and bright yellow baseball uniform to play for the Pirates.

Ward said he will always remember her as a no-nonsense, competitive player who had the team's most RBIs and became a leader for the other players — even though they were all boys.

Today, there are eight girls in the league, up from three last year. "I read that as Christina might have been a little inspiration," he said.

"In many ways, she led by example, being able to show the boys how to make a play, how to work hard, and she also led with her character," Ward said. "She was the first one to straighten out a rough issue. If there was an argument, she was like, 'C'mon guys, let's play ball.'"

It might not be all that surprising. Her father is a Los Angeles Dodgers scout, and her grandfather, Dallas Green, the no-nonsense manager who led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980.

Mac Kochanski, 8, played with Christina-Taylor last season and his father coaches her 11-year-old brother, Dallas.

"It doesn't feel good," he said about starting a season without her. "She was a really good second baseman and always really kind."

Kochanski said Christina often helped him get better at baseball and taught him to keep his elbow up and out when he throws.

Ward said she proved her grit on the field one day when she was hit with a 40 mph fastball in the kidney area. She fell to the ground in pain.

"By the time I got there, she was back up, we dusted her off and there was a grimace on her face," Ward said. "I asked her, 'What do you want to do — hit it or take your base?' And she said, 'I want to hit!' She knew what she wanted to do before I ever got there."

If Christina-Taylor had taken the base, a runner on third would have walked in and scored. Instead, she took her turn at the plate, punching a hard line drive right up the middle and bringing in two runs.

"What sticks out most is just the smile on her face when she got to first base knowing she had done her job," Ward said.

In practices now, Ward said he has noticed a renewed focus from the boys, as they try to honor her memory.

They don't have to look far for a reminder of her.

When they see the patch on their uniforms and those of the league's other ballplayers, they will see her initials, CTG, on a baseball, the American flag and the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the background.

"The world looks a lot brighter today from my perspective than it did on the 9th of January," league president Clyde Turpin said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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