Nation Mourns as Rep. Giffords, Other Victims Struggle to Recover

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remained in critical condition in an Arizona hospital on Sunday, one day after she was shot in the head by a gunman during a meeting with constituents in Tucson. Doctors said she was responsive to simple commands after undergoing surgery and they expect her to recover. Giffords is in a medically induced coma, and it will be some time before doctors can assess the prospects of the Democratic lawmaker, who was shot through the brain.

Twenty people were shot during the “Congress on the Corner” event at a Tuscon shopping center. Six have died, including a federal judge, an aide to the Congresswoman, and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords and 13 other victims have been treated for wounds at area hospitals.

Federal authorities have charged the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, with “one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee,” MSNBC reported. He will likely face state charges for the other deaths and injuries. The motives for the shooting are unknown.

Giffords, 40, was sworn in last week to her third term representing Arizona’s 8th District. She serves on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and she was deeply involved in debates last year over President Obama’s new direction for NASA. Giffords (D-AZ) is married to NASA astronaut Mike Kelly, who is set to command a space shuttle mission this spring. His twin brother, Scott, is currently serving as commander of the International Space Station.

Expressions of sorrow and support poured in from across America after news of the shootings broke. A shaken President Barack Obama referred to “Gabby” as his friend, praised Mike Kelly as one of America’s “valiant astronauts,” and vowed full federal support in the investigation. A sample of other reactions from the political and space worlds:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:

“We at NASA are deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting of Representative Giffords and others at Saturday’s public event in Tucson. As a long-time supporter of NASA, Representative Giffords not only has made lasting contributions to our country, but is a strong advocate for the nation’s space program and a member of the NASA family. She also is a personal friend with whom I have had the great honor of working. We at NASA mourn this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to Congresswoman Giffords, her husband Mark Kelly, their family, and the families and friends of all who perished or were injured in this terrible tragedy.”

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee:

“I am shocked and saddened by this terrible news, and my prayers are with Gabrielle, her husband Astronaut Mark Kelly, her family, her staff, and all those who were injured and lost their lives and their families. Gabrielle has so many friends in Congress and is an outstanding Congresswoman for her district and for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. I have been to her district with her to support solar energy and to the Cape with her to support the Shuttle flights. She is a wonderful person, and our prayers are with her, Captain Kelly, and the families of all the victims of this tragedy.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), chairman of space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of today’s events in Tucson. My prayers go out to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all the victims, as well as to our NASA family, which includes her husband, who is training to be the next commander of the space shuttle mission slated for April, and her brother-in-law, who is currently serving aboard the International Space Station.”

Commercial Spaceflight Federation:

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation wishes Representative Gabrielle Giffords a full recovery following today’s tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, and extends its thoughts and sympathies to Representative Giffords, her family, and the other victims of today’s events.

CSF President Bretton Alexander stated, “This is an unimaginable tragedy, and our hearts go out to the victims of this attack. Congresswoman Giffords is a passionate supporter of the space program and NASA, and we wish her the best for a speedy and full recovery.”

Representative Giffords has served as a leader on the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee since 2008, and is also a member of the full Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the House of Representatives.

Coalition for Space Exploration:

The Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) extends its heartfelt wishes to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords for a full and speedy recovery after being shot this morning at a public event in Arizona.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Rep. Giffords and her family as they begin the road to recovery,” said Glenn Mahone, chairman of the Coalition. “We also extend our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in this tragic occurrence and to the other victims and their families as they deal with the aftermath of this senseless tragedy.”

Rep. Giffords has been an active member of the bipartisan efforts in the U.S. House in support of space exploration having served as chairwoman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and also holds seats on the House Science and Technology and Armed Services committees.

United Space Alliance:

Today was a very sad day for the NASA family with the shooting of our friend, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of all those injured and killed today, and are especially with Congresswoman Giffords’ husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly; her parents; her children; and, of course, with the Congresswoman herself.

Congresswoman Giffords is an optimistic, dynamic and upbeat Member of Congress. She is deeply respected for her many contributions to our nation on a wide variety of issues including the space program. We join her constituents, her colleagues in Congress and the entire NASA family in wishing Congresswoman Giffords a full and speedy recovery.

A shocked nation grieved as details were released about those killed in the shoot spree. The six victims who died include: U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63; Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Christina-Taylor Green, 9.

Green, a newly elected member of the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School in Tucson, had attended the gathering with the Congresswoman because she was interested in public service. She is the grand-daughter of former Major League Baseball pitcher and manager Dallas Green, who led the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series championship and serves as an adviser to the team.

The young girl was born on Sept. 11, 2001. She was very aware of the significance of the date, and she wanted to serve her country, her father John Green told MSNBC:

“She was very proud of that,” Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said through tears. “She began her life with a tragedy on 9/11 and her life was ended with a tragedy here in Arizona but it was nine good years in the middle so the tragedies were the bookends. The bulk of her life was wonderful and we loved every minute of it so.”

My deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed and wounded in this senseless attack. This is a very sad day. I pray for the swift recovery of Rep. Giffords and all others who were wounded.