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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Giffords’ year of recovery a lesson in forgiveness

    Sometimes, you look for the word “chair,” but the only word that comes is “spoon.”

    If this year has taught you anything, it’s that sometimes you have to fight for the simplest things.

    In January, a man heard from news reports that his wife had been killed by a gunman in a Safeway parking lot. Nearly a year later, that man and his wife sat on national TV, telling Diane Sawyer the story of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery from a gunshot wound to the brain.

    On Jan. 8, just as students were gearing up to return to campus, Tucson stood still as news outlets struggled to keep up with reports of a gunman at north-side Safeway, where the congresswoman was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event. Six were killed and 13 injured, including Giffords, that day.

    Later, everyone from reporters to commentators, pundits to bloggers, speculated that the gunman, identified as Jared Loughner, had been driven by vitriolic discourse. Some suggested Loughner had a vendetta against the government. Others thought he was just sick, suffering from a mental illness and failed by Arizona’s struggling health care system.

    Over the course of the last year, experts contemplated how Loughner would stand trial, whether or not to medicate him and what sort of sentencing he would face. Meanwhile, Giffords left Tucson for Houston, where she began the long and slow process of regaining some semblance of normalcy.

    Sometimes you’re lucky and everything goes your way. But more often than not, life is a collision of timing and luck.

    On Jan. 7, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, imagined she’d run for another term in office. They also imagined they would have a child together, while Giffords underwent fertility treatments. The next day, Loughner changed everything.

    What happened brought Tucson to the national stage: On Jan. 12, President Barack Obama came to Arizona and spoke at the McKale Center to pay tribute to the shooting victims, but UA students overshadowed the event with their behavior at the memorial service. Critics suggested the behavior treated the memorial service like a pep rally.

    The thing is, you can’t control the cards life deals you. You can only play the hell out of the hand you’re given.

    On Jan. 12, attendees of the memorial service cheered and applauded because they saw what the critics could not. They said their goodbyes, and then celebrated the hope that drives healing. What no one said then was that, nearly a year later, that memorial service in McKale could be looked at as a sign of what was to come.

    In the last year, Giffords has gone from from lying, bruised and broken in the hospital, to opening her eyes and sitting up. Soon she was remembering words, then phrases, then full (albeit short) sentences.

    Loughner is being treated in Mississippi and awaits trial. The country waits to learn if Giffords will have recovered enough to hold office again.

    In the coming year, maybe Giffords will return to office. Maybe she won’t. But in the last year, she’s been set further back and come further than anyone else has.

    She still speaks in short sentences. Sometimes she resorts to gestures, as if all the words are in her hands. But nearly a year later, Giffords and her husband told Sawyer that they’re not angry with Loughner, and wish he’d been helped. Giffords called it “life … life.”

    Forgiveness is a process, like learning to speak again, and the future is more uncertain than anyone ever imagines it is. You could say this has been a dark year, and that Loughner and his story brought home all the horror that humans are capable of. You could also argue it’s been a year of fighting — a year of letting go of the things you can’t hold, of holding on with all your might to the things you can.

    Understand that everyone has a capacity for darkness. Give out all the light you have.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at

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