Gabrielle Giffords Interview
November 15, 2011 by staff
Gabrielle Giffords, in her first lengthy interview since the rampage, told Diane Sawyer on the ABC 20/20 programme she was feeling “pretty good” despite a difficult recovery.
The shooting at a constituency meeting in Tucson, Arizona, in which six people died and 13 were injured, reopened a national debate over gun use and ownership.
The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the US constitution, alongside basic rights such as freedom of speech and of religion. But state laws on gun control vary widely. The anti-gun lobby argues that states with more firearms have higher death rates. But those in favour of the ownership of firearms blame incidents on social ills, such as broken families or a culture of violence.
Giffords’ interview came as victims of the shooting testified in favour of a gun-control bill. About a dozen survivors and their relatives were in Washington lobbying for legislation that would extend criminal background checks to all gun sales and enhance the quality of the FBI’s criminal background searches.
Since Giffords made a surprise appearance in Congress this summer to cast a vote for the raising of the US debt limit, there has been speculation about her career plans, including whether she would run for the state’s open senate seat.
The Democrat appeared confident and determined in the ABC interview, but appeared to struggle with her speech. She spoke in a clear voice, but in halting phrases: “Pretty good … Difficult … Strong, strong, strong”, she replied to questions about how she was feeling and how she had fared over the 10 months since the shooting. When asked if she felt angry about what had happened to her, Giffords replied: “No, no, no. Life, life.”
The interview was accompanied by video footage filmed by her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, documenting her recovery. The initial days and weeks showed Giffords struggling to communicate and understand what had happened. She had difficulty learning how to nod and raise two fingers. When her therapist asked what one sits in, she replied “Spoon” before later settling on “chair”.
Kelly said she used the word “cheeseburger” to describe several items, but eventually, she learned to speak again and smile. He said he documented her recovery because he knew she would astonish her sceptics. “Gabby Giffords is too tough to let this beat her,” Kelly said.
The congresswoman has undergone intensive therapy since the attack. At times, despair appeared to set in. One clip shows her sobbing in her therapist’s arms at Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann hospitals. “Can I tell you something? It is going to get better,” her therapist tells her. “You’ve come a long way in five weeks.” Giffords is later seen becoming more upbeat and smiling frequently in the ensuing months.
She now walks with a limp and can talk, though she speaks in halting phrases or repeats a word to get her point across. During the interview Sawyer asked Giffords whether she wanted to return to Congress. “No. Better,” she replied. Her husband added: “She just wants to get better.”
Ken Dorushka, who was shot in the arm during the 8 January rampage as he shielded his wife, said the victims have become like close family members and would watch the broadcast together. “Any time one of us has a success, it affects all of us and it helps our healing,” he said.
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