True Heroism In Gabby Giffords' Humility

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) prepares to enter a car as she leaves the U.S. Capitol after a vote Monday on debt legislation. It was her first time on the House floor since she was shot at an event in her district in January. i i

hide captionRep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) prepares to enter a car as she leaves the U.S. Capitol after a vote Monday on debt legislation. It was her first time on the House floor since she was shot at an event in her district in January.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) prepares to enter a car as she leaves the U.S. Capitol after a vote Monday on debt legislation. It was her first time on the House floor since she was shot at an event in her district in January.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) prepares to enter a car as she leaves the U.S. Capitol after a vote Monday on debt legislation. It was her first time on the House floor since she was shot at an event in her district in January.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

NPR's Scott Simon and his family are friends with Gabrielle Giffords and her family. He had these thoughts on seeing her return to the House floor this week to vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Gabby Giffords didn't make just a ceremonial return to Congress this week. She came back to cast a vote (and a tough one in her district) for something that she believes in.

Gabby is one of the few members of Congress who was liked on both sides of the aisle before last January. Now she is admired and beloved for her personal grit and spirit. After weeks of wrangling, threats, finger-pointing and caterwauling that depressed many Americans, Gabby's upright return eloquently reminded us that the right to vote is precious.

Every member of Congress knows that Gabby was shot on Jan. 8 while she was fulfilling her duties in the most fundamental way: giving people in her district the chance to ask her personally about the votes she had cast.

Our family loves Tucson and the Giffords-Kelly family, and we feel privileged to be close enough to have some small appreciation of the courage it has taken for Gabrielle Giffords to be able to stand, wave, express thanks to her colleagues, and cast her vote on Monday night. It's the kind of courage that isn't spent in an instant. It's a steely fortitude — literally one step, one sound at a time — that begins each day from the moment she awakes, and will stretch for years. But Gabby's resilience is revealed in the smile she flashed from the floor of the House.

We also know that Gabrielle Giffords and her family are genuinely uncomfortable to hear her saluted for heroism. I think her heroism is unassailable. But Gabby and her family know that six good people died alongside of her when she was shot and survived, and want us to cherish their memories: Judge John Roll, who threw himself across others; Christina Taylor-Green, who was just 9; Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Dorwan Stoddard; and Gabe Zimmerman, who was on Gabby's staff.

Scott Simon is the host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

hide captionScott Simon is the host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

Will O'Leary

I wear a blue bracelet to commemorate Gabe, and support a scholarship fund created in his honor (you might have seen shots of Mark Kelly and his crew aboard the Endeavour tossing their blue wristbands in zero gravity). Gabe was just 30 years old, a former social worker who was engaged to be married. His "have a nice day!" on the voice mail on his office phone was so sunny and delightful, his colleagues had a hard, sad time deleting it.

I have no idea if Gabrielle Giffords will run for re-election next year. Holding a seat in Congress is a hard way to live under the best of circumstances. Politics will always be an option for her future. She is a profile in courage that will inspire whatever she does.

But when Gabby Giffords stood on the floor of Congress to cast her vote this week, it reminded us all that a finger on a voting button is stronger than one on a gun. A mad, cruel act couldn't undo democracy.

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