One year after a bullet went straight through her head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at a candlelight vigil in Tucson. Giffords' recovery has inspired people across the country, but her presence at numerous memorial events today was particularly meaningful for those still struggling with the aftermath of the Arizona shooting.
Giffords's staff had announced that she wouldn't be speaking at any of today's events, but she did have a special role in this evening's vigil at the University of Arizona. In front of a cheering crowd, Giffords was helped across the stage by Ron Barber, her former chief of staff who was with her during the shooting. After her husband, Mark Kelly, helped her put her right hand on her heard, Giffords enthusiastically recited the Pledge. It was Giffords' final event of the day after visiting the scene of the shooting, University Medical Center, where victims were treated after the attack, and a trail named for staffer Gabe Zimmerman, who died in the attack.
Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, said that during her trip home, Giffords has realized just how traumatized the community was by the shooting. "It moves her," she said. "She sees how tough this is, and was, for a lot of people."
Today NPR ran a depressing look at how little has changed since the massacre. Immediately after the shooting there were calls for more civility in politics, but it seems that if anything, the vitriol has increased with the start of campaign season. Colorado Sen. Mark Udall touched on that point while speaking at the University of Arizona this afternoon. Udall urged other politicians to learn from Giffords, saying:
Although Gabby now struggles with her words at times, we know what she's trying to say ... It's a simple concept. Words matter, and these days you don't hear our elected officials using words to bring us together. Too often words are used as weapons.
Giffords, Tucson Mark 1 Year Since Shooting [NPR]
Subdued Remembrance of a Dark Day in Tucson [NYT]
Giffords Recovering, But Civil Discourse Hasn't [NPR]
Gabrielle Giffords Attends Candlelight Vigil [My Fox NY]