Video: Giffords wants to return to Congress

  1. Transcript of: Giffords wants to return to Congress

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has recorded a message to her constituents in Arizona , the first time they've been able to hear from her directly since she was sought -- shot outside that grocery store in Tucson back in January. She's in Houston now, continuing her rehab treatments, told the people back home she misses her home.

    Representative GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: I'm getting stronger. I'm getting better. I want to get back to work. Representing Arizona is my honor.

    WILLIAMS: So interesting to hear her voice, realizing the hard work that represents. The entire message lasts about a minute. We posted it on our website for you tonight, nbcnightlynews.com. When

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updated 11/15/2011 10:49:10 AM ET 2011-11-15T15:49:10

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, struggling to form the words in her first extended interview since a January shooting rampage, said Monday she will not return to Congress until she is "better."

"No. Better," she said in response to a question about whether she wanted to return to Congress.

As she gestured as if to help her form the words, her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, completed the thought: "She wants to get better."

At that point, interviewer Diane Sawyer also tried to get Giffords to summarize her mindset, asking whether she was thinking she would go back to Congress if she got better. "And that's where you're at right now?" Sawyer asked.

"Yes, yes, yes," Giffords replied.

Since the Arizona Democrat made a surprise appearance on the House floor this summer to cast a vote on the debt ceiling increase, there has been wide speculation about her career plans, including whether she would run for the state's open Senate seat.

The ABC interview showed a woman who appeared confident and determined, but still far from able to carry on a detailed conversation. She spoke in a clear voice, but in halting phrases: "Pretty good ... Difficult ... Strong, strong, strong," she replied to questions about how she was feeling and how she'd fared over the 10 months since the shooting.

The Giffords interview was accompanied by video Kelly shot documenting Giffords' recovery. The initial days and weeks showed her struggling to understand what had happened and to communicate in the most basic forms. She struggled just to learn how to nod, to raise two fingers. When her therapist asked what one sits in, she replied "Spoon," before later settling on "chair." Kelly said she used the word "cheeseburger" to describe several items.

Eventually, she learned to speak again and smile.

Kelly said he documented her recovery because he knew she would astonish her skeptics.

"Gabby Giffords is too tough to let this beat her," Kelly said.

Ten things to know about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Giffords has undergone intensive therapy. At times, despair set in. One clip shows her sobbing in her therapist's arms at Houston's TIRR Memorial Hermann hospitals.

"Can I tell you something? It is going to get better," her therapist said at one point. "You've come a long way in five weeks."

Giffords is shown becoming more upbeat and smiling more frequently in the ensuing months. She now walks with a limp and can talk, though she generally speaks in halting phrases, or repeats a word to get her point across.

At one point, Kelly used the work "brave" to describe the word on his mind when he thinks of her — "brave and tough," he said. Then Giffords, looking directly at Kelly, responds almost in a whisper: "Tough, tough, tough" and she kissed his bald head.

Sawyer asked Giffords if she was ever angry about what happened to her. Giffords replied, "No, no, no. Life, life."

Story: Memoir: Giffords was trying for baby before shooting

The television interview comes as fellow victims of the shooting came to Washington to testify in favor of a gun-control bill. They said that Giffords' appearance represents a major milestone for them as it helps them cope with the trauma they've endured over the past 10 months. About a dozen survivors and family members are in Washington lobbying for legislation that would extend criminal background checks to all gun sales and enhance the quality of the FBI's criminal background checks.

Ken Dorushka, who was shot in the arm as he shielded his wife, says the victims have become like close family members and would watch the broadcast together.

"Any time one of us has a success, it affects all of us and it helps our healing," Dorushka said.

The Tucson victims described Giffords' recovery as a miracle. Nancy Bowman, a nurse who was at the scene, said Giffords' recovery is a testament to her drive and courage.

"I don't think there's a single one of us who saw what happened to her who could possibly have believed that she could survive. I certainly never dreamed I would ever be able to experience Gabby Giffords on TV speaking to the country."

Story: Gabrielle Giffords to read part of her upcoming audio book

The man arrested at the shooting, Jared Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting. He's being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs at a Missouri prison in an effort to make him mentally competent to stand trial.

In Monday's broadcast, Giffords and Kelly both expressed their concern that Loughner did not get the help he needed.

"If he had received some treatment, this probably never would have happened," Kelly said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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