Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Smiling, Talking 11 Months After Shooting

Home videos show Giffords recovering, learning how to speak and move.

ByABC News
November 10, 2011, 4:15 PM

Nov. 10, 2011 — -- When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords woke up in a rehab hospital in Houston weeks after she was shot by her attacker, Giffords stared off into the distance, seemingly unaware of where or who she was. No one knew if she would ever speak or walk again.

That moment, so full with hope and despair, was recorded by her husband, Mark Kelly, who documented much of her effort to battle back from her catastrophic head wound. She had to relearn even reflex motions as small as nodding her head. At her lowest point, Giffords was not even able to smile.

Now, for the first time since the attack at a Tucson supermarket, Giffords speaks publicly -- doing her best to sum up the nine months of pain and rehabilitation she's endured.

Watch the Full Diane Sawyer Special "Gabby and Mark: Courage and Hope"

"How do you feel?" Diane Sawyer asks Giffords during her time with her and Kelly. It is the first time the two have shared their story since the attack.

"Pretty good," says Giffords.

"Is it painful?" Sawyer asks.

"It's difficult," says Giffords. "Difficult."

It has been a journey of astonishing tenacity and determination. Giffords had a one in 10 chance of surviving the shooting. She not only survived, but has come farther than anyone could have imagined in the months since, fighting her way one breath and one hard-fought word at a time.

By her side the entire time was Kelly, an astronaut who shortly after the shooting commanded his final space mission; he retired from NASA in August.

Kelly and Giffords' mother are ever-present throughout the never-before-seen home video, which they taped to help document her recovery. The head wound she received on Jan. 8, 2011 in Tucson was a shot straight into her forehead as she was meeting constituents at a "Congress on Your Corner" event.

Kelly made the videos completely certain that his wife would recover and that she would want to know what happened to her. The movies will be shown for the first time during the Diane Sawyer special airing Nov. 14.

"I just thought, she's going to ask, 'OK, what was all that like?'" Kelly says.

Each day, he taped the small milestones that marked her progress, from her first days at the Houston rehabilitation facility learning to nod and smile, and eventually rising to the challenge that would be a milestone of her recovery: talking again.

Learning how to speak again wasn't easy. One morning while in rehab, Kelly arrived to find a nurse yelling for him in Giffords' bathroom. When he arrived, Giffords was sitting her wheelchair, crying, hyperventilating, absolutely frantic. She couldn't speak.

"She was having this panic attack because she had just figured out that she was trapped. Trapped inside herself," Kelly writes in the couple's new book, "Gabby: A Story of Hope and Courage." "Her eyes were as wide open as I'd ever seen them and the look on her face was one of absolute fear."

Still, slowly and with tremendous effort, Giffords began to speak again. For Kelly, that was enough motivation to push harder, to try and help his wife walk again.

"Gabrielle Giffords is too tough to let this beat her," says Kelly.

It was that constant motivation and support by Kelly and Giffords' family that helped her recover, Kelly tells Sawyer.

It is Giffords' mother, Gloria Giffords, a constant presence by her side, who perfectly describes her daughter's spirit over the past year.

"I think Gabby's got a message now that exceeds the political one. ... Gabby is a warrior."

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