Tucson, Ariz. On a bittersweet day for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the outgoing congresswoman spent her final hours in Tucson as the city’s U.S. representative, finishing the meeting she started on the morning she was shot and bidding farewell to constituents who supported her through a long recovery.
It may not be the end, though. The woman whose improbable recovery captivated the nation promised, “I will return.”
Giffords spent time Monday at her office with other survivors of the shooting rampage that killed six people and injured 13. She hugged and talked with survivors, including Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her young friend and neighbor, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. The little girl died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
“The last time I did this I had Christina’s hand,” Hileman said. “It was something that was hanging out there, and now it’s not.”
Others who met with Giffords included Pat Maisch, who was hailed as a hero for wrestling a gun magazine from the shooter that day, and Daniel Hernandez, Giffords’ intern at the time who helped save her life by trying to stop her bleeding until an ambulance arrived.
“It was very touching,” said Maisch, who was not hurt in the attack. “I thanked her for her service, wished her well, and she just looked beautiful.”
Giffords announced Sunday that she would resign from Congress this week to focus on her recovery. Maisch was sad to think that Giffords would no longer be her congresswoman.
“But I want her to do what’s best for her,” she said. “She’s got to take care of herself.”
However, an upbeat Giffords hinted that her departure from public life might be temporary. In a message sent on Twitter, she said: “I will return & we will work together for Arizona & this great country.”
In her last act in Tucson as a congresswoman, the Democrat visited one of her favorite charities, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
The food bank established the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center with $215,000 it received in the wake of the shooting. Giffords’ husband and former astronaut Mark Kelly told people who wanted to help Giffords after the shooting that the best way to do so was to donate to one of her favorite charities.
Giffords did not address reporters at the center and planned to head to the airport right after her visit. She was expected in Washington today for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.