Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords has had a difficult but inspiring year. It began with a major tragedy. On January 8, a shooting rampage broke out in the parking lot of a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. People were gathered there to attend a meet-and-greet hosted by Giffords, 41, an Arizona representative. The Democratic congresswoman and 18 others were shot. Six of the victims died. Police believe accused shooter Jared Loughner was targeting Giffords.
In the days that followed, Giffords, who was shot in the head, remained in critical condition. But doctors were optimistic about her recovery. In just 10 months, she went from being unable to speak at all to giving a television interview.
Giffords’s ongoing recovery has inspired many. She stood by her husband, Navy pilot and astronaut Mark Kelly, as he took his final space mission in April and then announced his retirement. Together, they wrote a book about the tragedy and her future called Gabby: A Story of Hope and Courage. On August 1, Giffords briefly returned to Washington, D.C., to cast a supportive vote to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The surprise visit brought thunderous applause from the House of Representatives and briefly removed the bitterness built up over months of arguing between parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Giffords “the personification of courage."
Giffords was born on June 8, 1970. Called “Gabby” by her friends and family, she grew up in Tucson. In 2000, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate. Giffords has served as an elected official for more than 10 years. She is an advocate for solar energy, environmental causes and support for military families and veterans.
In November, Giffords helped serve a Thanksgiving meal to service members and retirees at a military base in Tucson. She hopes to return to Congress, but for now, she is focused on her recovery. "I will get stronger. I will return," Giffords says in her book.
For her congressional work and her inspiring courage and determination, Gabrielle Giffords is a nominee for TFK's 2011 Person of the Year.