Today marks the third anniversary of an all-too-common mass shooting: 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire outside a Tucson, Arizona grocery store, killing six and wounding 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Since then, Loughner has been sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences and 140 years in federal prison. Giffords, who was shot in the head and incorrectly declared dead by some news outlets, has recovered -- though rehab has been "gritty, painful, frustrating work," as she wrote in today's New York Times. She had to step down from her job in Congress, but has re-dedicated her life to advocating for gun control laws. And, she said, she's regained some movement in her paralyzed right arm:
Countless hours of physical therapy — and the talents of the medical community — have brought me new movement in my right arm. It’s fractional progress, and it took a long time, but my arm moves when I tell it to. Three years ago, I did not imagine my arm would move again. For so many days, it did not. I did exercise after exercise, day after day, until it did. I'm committed to my rehab and I'm committed to my country, and my resolution, standing with the vast majority of Americans who know we can and must be safer, is to cede no ground to those who would convince us the path is too steep, or we too weak.
She also went skydiving! The actual jump will be on the Today tomorrow morning (Savannah Guthrie was in the plane with Giffords but didn't jump). Giffords jumped in tandem with a friend and former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch, who told the AP that she was "the least nervous person on the plane."
It's been step by step since I was shot three years ago. I've overcome a lot. Progress has come from working hard.— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014
Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step. I'm stronger now. I'm winning back movement in my right arm.— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014
I have the opportunity to do something I love: skydiving with my friend, former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch. pic.twitter.com/7XlTiyQRfO— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014
Southern Arizona will look beautiful & peaceful from the top of the sky.— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014
"They did a little moment of silence at the drop zone," Hatch said. "The emotion was really heavy. Then she smiled and said, 'Let's go.'"
Gabby landed beautifully. Happy she's safe. So proud of her bravery. pic.twitter.com/GTXWP2oNP0— Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly) January 8, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden called her before the jump to wish her luck, prompting Giffords to tweet him an invitation (which he then re-tweeted, thereby making this a binding contract):