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Giffords Completes Skydive To Mark Shooting Commemoration

4:26 PM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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John Bacon, USA TODAY

Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords completed a skydive Wednesday to mark the third commemoration of the mass shooting at her campaign event in Tucson that took the lives of six people.

"Gabby landed beautifully. Happy she's safe. So proud of her bravery," tweeted her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, after Giffords landed at a jump site in Eloy, Ariz.

Giffords, one of 13 people wounded in the massacre, was shot in the head and has undergone intensive physical therapy. Early Wednesday, she posted on Facebook: "Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step," she wrote. "I'm stronger now. I'm winning back movement in my right arm. So I have the opportunity to do something I love: skydiving with my friend, former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch. Southern Arizona will look beautiful, peaceful from the top of the sky."

Also Wednesday, Tucson held a small memorial service. At 10:10 a.m. MT - the time of the shooting - University of Arizona Medical Center chaplain Joseph Fitzgerald read the names of the 19 victims and led a brief prayer. "We pray for the many other people who were wounded emotionally, psychologically and spiritually," he said. A small bell was rung 19 times.

Church events and other activities were underway around the city. This week, officials in Tucson also unveiled plans for a downtown memorial to honor the victims.

Giffords, 43, wrote an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times saying her condition continues to improve.

"Many may look at me and see mostly what I have lost," Giffords wrote. "I struggle to speak, my eyesight's not great, my right arm and leg are paralyzed, and I left a job I loved representing southern Arizona in Congress."

But Giffords said that, while learning to walk and talk again, she also searched for a larger purpose. She found it after the mass slaying of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

"It shocked me, it motivated me, and frankly, it showed me a path. After that day, my husband and I pledged to make it our mission to change laws and reduce gun violence in a way that was consistent with our moderate beliefs and our identities as proud gun owners."

Jared Lee Loughner, now 25, was sentenced in November 2012 to seven consecutive life sentences plus 140 years after pleading guilty to 19 federal charges in the Tucson shooting.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, live in Tucson. They have founded a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to support legal limits on guns and counter the lobbying power of the gun industry and pro-gun advocates.

"We will seize on consensus where it exists, on solutions big or small," Giffords wrote in the Times. "We will fight for every inch, because that means saving lives. I've seen grit overcome paralysis. My resolution today is that Congress achieve the same."

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