President Barack Obama delivered the news so many wanted to hear but may not have dared to hope for during a time when he said the nation's "discourse has become so sharply polarized."
"Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her and she knows we are rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey," Obama said in a speech delivered at a memorial honoring Tucson shooting victims and heroes Wednesday night.
Six people were killed and at least 13 were injured, including Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, D-Ariz., in a mass shooting outside a Tucson supermarket on Saturday. She was shot in the head and is in critical condition.
Prior to the memorial service, Obama visited Giffords at the hospital.
The president had already left the hospital room, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., were in the room when Giffords opened her eyes.
Giffords opened her right eye (her left eye, damaged in the shooting, is bandaged.) for about a minute total and was able to raise her arm, Gillibrand told ABC News, adding that everyone in the room was crying.
"It was just the most amazing thing," said Wasserman Schultz in an interview this morning on "Good Morning America." "We hugged Mark and went right to Gabby, we were able to hold her hand. Kirsten was holding her hand and rubbing the top of her hand and we started talking to her about the experiences we had."
Wasserman Schultz said her family along with Giffords and her husband Mark would vacation at her house in New Hampshire for the last couple of summers.
"So I said to her, 'Gabby, come on I am expecting you back in New Hampshire this summer so you better get through this quick," said Wasserman Schultz. "All of a sudden at that point, she just started to open her eyes, just a slit and nobody could believe it."
"We were stunned. Mark got so excited, he said to her, 'Gabby if you can see me give me the thumbs up.' And she didn't right away, but he kept talking to her and kept encouraging her, the speaker was encouraging her, telling her how much her how much her colleagues missed her and then she opened a little more," said Wasserman Schultz. "She was struggling, you could see every ounce of determination in her face trying to get her eyes open and she did."
"We were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring a nation with her courage, her strength and she showed us that strength right there at that moment we were there," Gillibrand said. "Mark was urging her, you know, 'Can you see me, can you see me?' And she literally pulled her whole arm up as a thumbs up with her arm."
Afterwards, the doctor declared it to be a major step forward for Giffords.
"One of the doctors just said 'Wow, this is incredible progress,'" said Wasserman Schultz.
"It instantly showed her strength, her courage, her indomitable spirit — everything that we love about Gabby was all there at that moment. She will be up and walking in a few weeks, it's going to be something that we are all going to be a part of," Gillibrand said.
In light of the positive news about Giffords, the president urged the nation to move forward in unity and civility and believed "we can be better."