Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Wraps Up District Work Today as She Prepares to Leave Congress

PHOTO: Rep. Gabby Giffords posted this picture on twitter of her hugging Daniel Hernandez, the former intern who saved her life.
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A little more than a year ago, on Jan. 8, 2011, gunshots rang out across a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Ariz., and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at close range while she conducted a Congress on Your Corner event with constituents.

Six people died, including Gabe Zimmerman, the first congressional aide killed in the line of duty; John Roll, a federal judge; and Christine Taylor Green, a curious 9-year-old with a penchant for politics who was coincidentally born on Sept. 11, 2001. Twelve others were wounded before the shooting stopped.

Four days into the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the terrible news rattled the nation. Some media organizations reported that Giffords was confirmed dead, but amazingly, Giffords survived the horrific massacre and her recovery has captivated the country.

Today, following her announcement that she would resign from the House this week, the Arizona Democrat intends to finish that Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson before traveling to the Capitol for the State of the Union address Tuesday.

In a private gathering in Tucson, Giffords plans to meet with some of the people who were at the Jan. 8, 2011, event that was interrupted by gun fire. Among those invited to attend are some of the injured, as well as some of those who aided the injured and others who subdued the gunman.

Giffords also plans to meet privately today with community leaders from her district, including advisers on issues particularly important to Giffords, such as border security, solar power, defense and veterans' issues.

In her final act in her district as a member of Congress, Giffords will visit the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. The center, which opened on Sept. 23, was established after more than $215,000 was donated in Giffords' honor following the shooting.

Giffords then returns to the Capitol to sit with her colleagues while President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday. Soon after, she is expected to submit her letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Over the past year, victims of the shooting have been remembered throughout the nation. A room in the Capitol was named for Zimmerman. Christine Taylor Green was recognized on a float at the Rose Bowl parade. Ron Barber and Pam Simon, two Giffords' aides who were wounded in the shooting, returned to work. And just about everybody wondered how Gabby Giffords was doing.

Giffords has returned to the Capitol only once, making a triumphant appearance on Aug. 2 to cast a vote in favor of the debt limit increase.

Giffords' surprise appearance on the House floor showed how far she had come but also demonstrated how far in her recovery she had to go.

A few months later, in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, chronicled her recovery. America was enthralled by the amazing staff who had helped Giffords recover her speech and motor skills through music therapy.

Giffords' announcement that she was resigning came somewhat as a surprise. On the final page of a book she and Kelly co-wrote, Giffords vowed to get stronger and said she hoped to return to serve in the House of Representatives.

"I will get stronger," she wrote. "I will return."

"I want to get back to work. Representing Arizona is my honor," she said in a video statement a short time later. "I miss you, I miss home. I will see you real soon."

Adding to speculation that she would seek re-election this fall, Giffords had an army of supporters raising money on her behalf should she decide to seek another term. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Democratic National Chairwomen Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, -- among others -- all worked to ensure Giffords could finance another campaign had she decided to run. Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, even added Giffords to his Front-Line program for vulnerable candidates.

"The attitude was the money would be there if she decided to run," a Democratic campaign aide confided.

But for Giffords, the resignation is an opportunity to focus on her recovery, perhaps paving the way for another run in the future.

In a video message released Sunday, Giffords pledged that despite her upcoming resignation, her career in public service had not come to an end.

"I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country," she vowed.

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