A picture is worth a thousand words. Look at this one of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband on the one-year anniversary of the Tucson shooting.
It seems miraculous that she survived being shot in the head at pointblank range. That she led the Pledge of Allegiance at the memorial event made it a public witness of timely importance.
She limped to the podium, and husband Mark Kelly helped lift her left hand over her heart. After months of intensive speech therapy, Giffords recited the pledge with the audience, head held high and a smile on her face as she punched each word.
Her husband reminded us what the nation thought we learned that day but soon forgot.
“Those of us who survived were forever changed by that moment,” Kelly said. “For the past year, we’ve had new realities to live with, the reality and pain of letting go of the past.
“There’s a reality that life is unpredictable, and that even in the best of times, our cherished friends, the good, the caring, the innocent among us, the closest and dearest people we know, can be taken from us,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a crowd of people at St. Augustine Cathedral recited the 23rd Psalm and watched as relatives of the six dead walked solemnly down the aisle with a single red rose, placing the flowers in a vase in front of a picture of a heart.
“Even in the midst of this troubling year, the healing, the courage that we have experienced in our community — each one of us can notice how our cups overflow with the blessings of our lives,” said Stephanie Aaron, Giffords’ rabbi.
Hundreds of people at the cathedral — including Gov. Jan Brewer — stood and chanted, “We remember, we remember, we remember with grateful hearts.” Some closed their eyes while others held each other.
One of those who lost his life that day was Judge John Roll, who attended Mass at that cathedral almost daily before he showed up ‘at the wrong place at the wrong time.’
It’s important that we remember what happened in Arizona one year ago, for the inestimable and transcendent value and dignity of every single life.
And for the call it prompted politicians and members of the media to make, for civility. That didn’t last a week. But one year later we have a precious reminder we didn’t have then…the joyful face of Gabby Giffords.