Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Rejected Staff Request to Skip Meeting Where She Was Shot

Rep. Giffords insisted on meeting folks despite growing signs of menace.

ByABC News
November 11, 2011, 11:17 AM

Nov. 11, 2011— -- The night before Gabrielle Giffords was shot, she sent an email to her husband and a friend, bemoaning the state of politics in Arizona.

"My poor state!" she wrote. "The nut jobs have stolen it away from the good people of Arizona."

The nut jobs, who in the past months had shot out the glass doors and windows of Giffords office, were beginning to worry the congresswoman, according to the new book Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, written by Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. But Giffords forged ahead, meeting with constituents to hear their concerns.

Giffords' office had been flooded with violent phone calls and e-mails during the health care debate in 2010. The congresswoman had been threatened and called derogatory names, and her staffers had feared for their safety.

At a meet-and-greet at a Tucson supermarket in 2009, as protesters shouted Giffords down over the controversial health care law, a gun slipped from someone's holster and slid across the floor toward Giffords and her staff.

"That was a scary moment for Gabby and her staffers," Kelly writes. "They realized people could be coming to (Congress on Your Corner) events armed."

Watch "Gabby and Mark: Courage and Hope," a Diane Sawyer Exclusive on Monday, Nov. 14 at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT on ABC.

But on Jan. 5, as she was sworn into her third term in Congress, Giffords decided that despite the danger, she would have another Congress on Your Corner event at the same supermarket, just three days later.

"Why don't you take Saturday to yourself?" Kelly recounts her chief of staff, Pia Carusone urging. "Give yourself a break."

"No," Giffords replied. "Let's do it. Let's hear what people think of everything."

The Democratic congresswoman was not going to let the growing signs of menace keep her away from constituents. At the same time she was making a point to stay away from the violent rhetoric and the deeply partisan spirit that had overtaken Washington.

After a health care reform opponent shot out the windows and doors of Giffords' Tucson office in 2010, she had told MSNBC viewers that violence had no place in politics.

Determined to display a bipartisan spirit, Giffords waited in a line full of Republicans to shake the hand of new House Majority Leader John Boehner. Though many other Democrats decided not to show up, Giffords said she wanted to respect the office of majority leader. She and Boehner posed for a picture together, Republican and Democrat, side-by- side.

Giffords also recorded a robo-call while in Washington that would be distributed to 20,000 people back home, in the vicinity of the Tuscon Safeway grocery store where she would hold the Congress on Your Corner meet-and-greet. The call would reach the home of Jared Loughner, a troubled constituent who had attended a Giffords event in the past.

"This is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and I hope to meet you in person this Saturday," Giffords said cheerfully into the phone, offering the exact time and place to meet their representative that Saturday.

Then, she headed home to Arizona.

When Giffords arrived at the Safeway in Tucson there was a folding table and some chairs, an American and Arizona flag and a banner with Giffords name already set up.

Ahead of her, already in line at the supermarket, were more than a dozen constituents, including a 9-year-old girl.

"Nice to see you," Gabby said to them, smiling. "Thanks so much for coming."

And then, the optimistic, unsuspecting Giffords walked to the front to begin greeting those who had come.

Click here to pre-order Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly's new book "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope"