WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, struggling to form
the words in her first extended interview since a January shooting
rampage, said Monday she will not return to Congress until she is
"No. Better," she said in response to a question about whether
she wanted to return to Congress.
As she gestured as if to help her form the words, her husband,
former astronaut Mark Kelly, completed the thought: "She wants to
At that point, interviewer Diane Sawyer also tried to get
Giffords to summarize her mindset, asking whether she was thinking
she would go back to Congress if she got better. "And that's where
you're at right now?" Sawyer asked.
"Yes, yes, yes," Giffords replied.
Since the Arizona Democrat made a surprise appearance on the
House floor this summer to cast a vote on the debt ceiling
increase, there has been wide speculation about her career plans,
including whether she would run for the state's open Senate seat.
The ABC interview showed a woman who appeared confident and
determined, but still far from able to carry on a detailed
conversation. She spoke in a clear voice, but in halting phrases:
"Pretty good ... Difficult ... Strong, strong, strong," she
replied to questions about how she was feeling and how she'd fared
over the 10 months since the shooting.
The Giffords interview was accompanied by video Kelly shot
documenting Giffords' recovery. The initial days and weeks showed
her struggling to understand what had happened and to communicate
in the most basic forms. She struggled just to learn how to nod, to
raise two fingers. When her therapist asked what one sits in, she
replied "Spoon," before later settling on "chair." Kelly said
she used the word "cheeseburger" to describe several items.
Eventually, she learned to speak again and smile.
Kelly said he documented her recovery because he knew she would
astonish her skeptics.
"Gabby Giffords is too tough to let this beat her," Kelly
Giffords has undergone intensive therapy. At times, despair set
in. One clip shows her sobbing in her therapist's arms at Houston's
TIRR Memorial Hermann hospitals.
"Can I tell you something? It is going to get better," her
therapist said at one point. "You've come a long way in five
Giffords is shown becoming more upbeat and smiling more
frequently in the ensuing months. She now walks with a limp and can
talk, though she generally speaks in halting phrases, or repeats a
word to get her point across.
At one point, Kelly used the work "brave" to describe the word
on his mind when he thinks of her - "brave and tough," he said.
Then Giffords, looking directly at Kelly, responds almost in a
whisper: "Tough, tough, tough" and she kissed his bald head.
Sawyer asked Giffords if she was ever angry about what happened
to her. Giffords replied, "No, no, no. Life, life."
The television interview comes as fellow victims of the shooting
came to Washington to testify in favor of a gun-control bill. They
said that Giffords' appearance represents a major milestone for
them as it helps them cope with the trauma they've endured over the
past 10 months. About a dozen survivors and family members are in
Washington lobbying for legislation that would extend criminal
background checks to all gun sales and enhance the quality of the
FBI's criminal background checks.
Ken Dorushka, who was shot in the arm as he shielded his wife,
says the victims have become like close family members and would
watch the broadcast together.
"Any time one of us has a success, it affects all of us and it
helps our healing," Dorushka said.
The Tucson victims described Giffords' recovery as a miracle.
Nancy Bowman, a nurse who was at the scene, said Giffords' recovery
is a testament to her drive and courage.
"I don't think there's a single one of us who saw what happened
to her who could possibly have believed that she could survive. I
certainly never dreamed I would ever be able to experience Gabby
Giffords on TV speaking to the country."
The man arrested at the shooting, Jared Loughner has pleaded not
guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting. He's being
forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs at a Missouri prison in
an effort to make him mentally competent to stand trial.
In Monday's broadcast, Giffords and Kelly both expressed their
concern that Loughner did not get the help he needed.
"If he had received some treatment, this probably never would
have happened," Kelly said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)