NBC News' Savannah Guthrie talks to the couple about their future while looking back at their past
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KYMA, KECY/NBC News) - During Wednesday's siege on Capitol Hill, families of the members of Congress awaited word on the safety of their loved ones. That included Gabby Giffords, the former Congresswoman who was gravely injured by a gunman ten years ago. Giffords is married to newly-elected Senator Mark Kelly.
She tweeted: "As I sat waiting for information about Mark's safety today, I couldn't stop thinking about what you must have gone through 10-years ago."
In fact, today marks 10 years to the day a gunman opened fire in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Arizona. Six were killed, and 13 wounded, including Gabby, who was shot in the head.
It's been a long road to recovery, still fraught with many challenges. Earlier this week, Savannah Guthrie sat down with Giffords and her husband to discuss how she found her voice again, and how from a great loss, she intends to create great change.
Kelly says he often reflects on that terrible day.
"As we approach the ten years, I do think back to that day often. There was a moment where it was reported that Gabby had-- had died. It was about 30 minutes. Gabby's pretty..."
"Tough." she interrupts.
"Gabby's pretty tough." he says.
"Really tough." says Gabby.
"I knew there was a chance that-- that-- that might not be true. And-- turned out that was the case." Kelly recalls.
Tough, courageous, unrelenting, Gabby Giffords has had to summon all of that within her, and more, in the last decade. To survive was just not enough for this determined daughter of the desert.
Hikes like this one would have been unthinkable ten years ago, on another January day.
"There was a shooting at Safeway...I do believe Gabby Giffords was hit." said a caller to 9-1-1.
On January 8th, 2011, a gunman shot into a crowd at a local meet and greet with Congresswoman Giffords. He killed six and injured 13, including Gabby - shot point black in the head.
NBC's Savannah Guthrie, herself a Tucson native, reported on the attack.
"People are so sad so shocked and they really don't want the rest of the country and the world to look at Tucson in this way…" Guthrie said.
The attack drew national attention to Tucson, and the President himself visited Gabby's hospital bedside. He later delivered some good news to the nation.
"A few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time." announced Obama.
"I remember that speech when he said to the McKale Center and the crowds that, "Gabby opened her eyes." Did you ever go back and look at that? Did you ever see that?" asks Guthrie.
"Move ahead. Move ahead." answers Giffords.
"You know, we've talked about a number of times, like, would-- would-- would Gabby want to go and watch all the coverage from that day? Not-- not really, yeah." says Kelly.
"I read that when she would hold your hand in the hospital bed, she would turn your wedding ring." says Guthrie.
"She would spin it around like that, even when she was still kind of unconscious." Kelly shares.
"But what did that mean to you?" asks Guthrie.
"Well, it meant that she was-- that you were..."
"Alive." interjects Giffords.
"Well, that. You, and you were still there." he says.
It was a grueling recovery process, hospitalized for months, having to re-learn not just how to walk, but how to talk. But years of pain and hard work, and her continued struggle to speak, have not diminished her sparkle, or her sass.
"I knew you a little bit before the shooting, and it always struck me that you had the gift of gab. You were so eloquent and speaking and speech came so easily to you. And now I see that you fight for every word. You fight for it. What is that like? What is your rehabilitation like?" asks Guthrie.
"Really, really sucks." answers Giffords.
"You still have a way with words!" says Guthrie.
"Tip of the tongue. Gabby Giffords speaks, speaks, speak so quiet now." the former Congresswoman responds.
"But Gabby, you know everything that's going on. I can see it in your eyes. She's not missing anything." observes Guthrie.
"And then when your name is Gabby, it's quite ironic that you find yourself in this situation, right?" asks Kelly.
"What do you enjoy doing these days? What's fun?" asks Guthrie.
"Oh, I'm so busy. A lotta Zoom calls. Work, work, work. Speech therapy. Lotta homework. Yoga twice a week. French horn. Spanish lessons. Ride new bike. Walking on my treadmill, watching movies. It's Groundhog Day." she says.
"All over again." says Kelly.
"All over again." she agrees.
Something old that's new again for this couple, they are back in Washington. Gabby's husband, a retired Navy captain and astronaut, was recently elected by the state of Arizona to hold John McCain's former seat in the Senate.
"If I had told you ten years ago you're gonna be a senator, would you have believed that?" asks Guthrie.
"No." says Giffords.
"Would you have believed that?" asks Guthrie.
"No. Was not in my plan, it was not." answers Kelly.
"Is there any part of you that thinks it should be her?" asks Guthrie.
"Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, Gabby was a member of Congress. I often think to myself, I mean, if something would have happened to me, would Gabby have become an astronaut?" he says.
"Knowing Gabby, probably!" says Guthrie.
"Yes!" says Giffords.
The same spirit which keeps her fighting tirelessly for gun reform with her organization.
"I thought about this last ten years, the progress that has been made. I also have to remember six of the worst mass shootings in our country have been in the last ten years. Do you ever feel hopeless or get frustrated?" asks Guthrie.
"Hope. I've known the darkest of days. Days of pain and uncertain recovery. But confronted by despair, I've summoned hope. Hope, hope, hope." answers Giffords.
It's a message she worked on for three months to deliver in a stunning speech at this year's Democratic National Convention.
"My recovery is a daily fight but fighting makes me stronger." says Giffords.
"This is the year where a lotta people are struggling and for different reasons. And, no, they didn't go through what you've had to go through, but what is your message to people who might be struggling and having a hard time?" asks Guthrie.
"Be a leader, set an example. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best." says Giffords.