Tucson shooting anniversary: Obama praises Gabrielle Giffords
President Obama, who led the nation in mourning after the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others a year ago in Tucson, has called the congresswoman to praise her as an inspiration, the White House announced Sunday.
Obama’s call came as Tucson and the nation commemorated the events of Jan. 8, 2011, when a lone gunman opened fire on Giffords, who was holding a meet-and-greet event in a parking lot at a Tucson shopping center. Six people were killed and 13 others, including the Giffords, were injured in the attack.
The White House said Obama called Giffords on Sunday to say that he and First Lady Michelle Obama keep her, “the families of the fallen, and the whole Tucson community in their daily thoughts and prayers and, along with the entire nation, continue to join her in mourning those lost.”
Obama also said he was amazed by the “courage and determination” Giffords “has shown along her incredible road to recovery,” and called her “an inspiration to his family and Americans across the country.”
Giffords, 41, who was shot in the head during the attack, has spent much of the last year in Houston undergoing physical and speech therapy.
Giffords has regained the ability to walk and talk and has even appeared in Congress to cast a vote. She gave a televised interview to ABC's Diane Sawyer in May.
Still, it remains unclear what the long-term effects of the gunshot to her brain will be. Giffords is in her third term in Congress and has several months before she has to formally declare whether she will seek a fourth term.
Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, were expected to join thousands at an evening candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona. Kelly was expected to speak.
Jared Lee Loughner, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in connection with the shooting. He is being medicated at a Missouri prison facility after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, husband Mark Kelly and Nancy Barber, the wife of Giffords' district director, Ron Barber, visit the Davidson Canyon Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead overlooking Tucson on Saturday. Zimmerman was one of six people killed in the attack that left Giffords gravely injured. Credit: Cheryl Evans / Arizona Republic