I didn’t know Gabrielle Giffords before January 8, 2011.
Why would I?
I didn’t live in Arizona and wasn’t particularly plugged into that part of American politics. Sure, I’m sure I saw her name in news stories and reports, especially after Arizona’s controversial immigration law was passed. But as with most other American congressmen and women — and even governors — her name just didn’t stick.
Then January 8 happened. I remembered following the events of that day on Twitter, especially her “death” — which was later proven to be untrue. That day was the first time in a long time I turned on CNN to follow the events in Arizona.
I don’t know why, but Giffords’ story struck a chord with me. Even before we knew anything about how she was doing.
After the first post-shooting images of her were released, I was even more struck by Giffords and her story. She looked so happy, so at peace, so OK.
Giffords’ first television interview was with Dianne Sawyer. I spent most of the hour in tears watching in amazement at the videos of this woman fighting so hard to be who she was all over again.
“She sounds like a child,” my boyfriend commented after one section where Giffords spoke.
He was right, she did. She spoke in short, usually one-word sentences. She looked confused when she was asked some questions, but I still saw so much hope and possibility from her.
Late last year, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope was released — a book by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. The book told the story of Giffords’ life before the shooting, but more of it took place in the days, weeks and months that came afterward. How she fought to build her life back — to walk, to talk — to learn everything all over again.
Of course, the real question was whether Giffords was going to run for re-election this year. Whenever it was asked, Kelly always gave the same response: The decision was Giffords’ alone to make, and she had until May to make it.
Then this weekend we got more news from Giffords. Only this time, it wasn’t about her future aspirations. This time it was about her present situation. She had decided she would be resigning her congressional seat.
In a video released on her website, wearing a red jacket almost just like the one she was shot in just over a year ago, Giffords said farewell:
“I will return,” Giffords promised, smiling in a way that you could almost see the “old” Gabby shining through.
She promised that while she was getting better, she needed to take some time to focus on her recovery. And while she didn’t expressly say she wasn’t planning to run again, the video made it pretty clear that her political career was probably done.
The New York Times reported Sunday night that Giffords would end her term in congress finishing the Congress on Your Corner event in the supermarket parking lot where she was shot one year ago.
Perhaps because of that decision, and so many others, I still see hope from Gabrielle Gifford. Sunday’s events reminded me of some of what she had written in Gabby‘s final chapter entitled “Gabby’s Voice:”
Hope and faith. You have to have hope and faith.
Everything I do reminds me of that horrible day. Just rolling onto my side is hard. Hard to sleep at night. Reminds me of how badly I was hurt. It was hard but I’m alive …
Long ways to go. Grateful to survive. It’s frustrating. Mentally hard. Hard work. I’m trying. Trying so hard to get better. Regain what I’ve lost. Want to speak better .
Trying to get back to work … I’m so sorry I’m unable to work right now.
I hope I never have to fight a battle like the one that Gabrielle Giffords is fighting, but I know I will fight smaller battles throughout my lifetime.
I hope like Giffords, no matter how tough my fight may seem or how futile it appears to be, I hope I am able to hold my head up high and carry on. I hope no matter how dark things may seem, I am able to say exactly what Giffords said:
I will get stronger. I will return.
Of that, I have no doubt.
Good luck, Gabby.
Photo for blog post a screengrab from Giffords’ video announcing her resignation.