DALLAS (CBS11) -In a windowless basement room of the Dallas Central Library, the tokens and mementos of a city in mourning have found a (albeit temporary) home.
“It’s tough to be down here some days,” said Dallas’ Libraries Director Jo Giudice, “but, today is the toughest.”
Over the past year, Giudice and her staff have taken on an unexpected task: sorting and preserving the thousands of mementos that covered the patrol cars and poured into police headquarters in the aftermath of the ambush.
“We heard it was going to rain, and we were like oh, my gosh! We need to save those papers!”
And everything else: the flowers, the crosses, the wreaths—300 stuffed animals and more than 10,000 letters and the toys.
“We have toys that are so well worn and loved and we know that it was a sacrifice for that child to leave it behind,” said Giudice as she reflects on the eclectic assortment, “so that’s priceless.”
For now, no decisions have been made about a permanent display. As Dallas marks the first anniversary of the shooting, library branches throughout the city are hosting small displays of some of the archived items. Branch librarians were allowed to select items that would be especially meaningful for their communities.
A $15,000 donation allowed staffers to purchase special archival, acid free boxes to safely store the paper items. But, Giudice saID about $150,000 more is needed to fully digitize the collection.
“One day a child who left something behind and signed it, would be able to search for their name and then see an image of the picture or poster they drew.” Once the items are catalogued, said Giudice, “they would be able to come back as adults with their kids, and we would still have it… that’s my goal.”
Still, the one-time children’s librarian admits that sorting through the mementos that mark such sorrow takes a toll.
“You can’t look at these items and not read them, and not be touched.” She said that is especially true today—as her thoughts turn to the collection’s intent: to bring comfort to the families of the fallen. She says two families have already come and spent some private time among the mementos.
“I’m doing it for them,” said Giudice, her eyes filling with tears, “because I want it available if they ever want to come here and sit with these items and read the letters that people sent, and know that people care about them. We’re not gonna forget. That’s why I’m here. We’re not gonna forget.”