Exclusive: Gabrielle Giffords' Husband Mark Kelly Says She Feared She Would Be Shot

Mark Kelly unsure wife should stay in Congress; shares details on her recovery.

ByABC News
January 17, 2011, 12:15 PM

Jan. 18, 2011— -- For 20 crushing minutes, Mark Kelly thought that his wife Gabrielle Giffords had died.

On board a friend's private plane rushing him and his family to his wife's side, Kelly watched television reports erroneously declare that Giffords had lost her life in the shooting in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8.

"The kids ... Claudia and Claire start crying. My mother, you know ... I think she almost screamed. And I just, you know, walked into the bathroom, and you know, broke down," Kelly, an astronaut, told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview. "To hear that she died is just, it's devastating for me."

For Kelly, it was the worst moment in a nightmarish day. Calling from the plane, Kelly learned the truth from people who were with Giffords at the hospital -- that his wife had not died, but she was fighting for her life.

"It was a terrible mistake," Kelly said about turning on the television. "As bad as it was that she had died, it's equally exciting that she hadn't."

Watch Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Mark Kelly on a special edition of "20/20," "The Congresswoman and the Astronaut: An American Story of Love and Strength," at 10 p.m. ET.

In a remarkably personal interview, Kelly revealed that his wife had spoken about 10 times before the shooting of her fears of being shot during one of her town meetings, and Kelly isn't sure she should continue being a member of Congress after her recovery.

Kelly also talks of his wife's remarkable progress and his hope that she'll eventually make a complete recovery.

Kelly, who has been photographed beside his wife's bed holding her hand, said there is a habit of hers that has convinced him that she recognizes him.

"If I hold her hand, she'll play with my wedding ring. She'll move it up and down my finger. She'll take it off ... she'll put it on her own finger. She'll move it to her thumb. And then she can put it back on my finger," he said.

"The reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she's done that before. She'll do that if we're sitting in a restaurant. She'll do the same exact movements," he said.