Nightly News | August 02, 2011
WILLIAMS: at the height of it, during the House vote, a moment of pure joy arrived. It started with slow applause, then erupted as House members realized Gabby Giffords had come back to cast a vote, something no one thought possible back in January when they didn't know if she'd would make it through that first night. Nancy Pelosi called Giffords ' entrance a great moment for our country, which, of course the debate was not. It's where we begin tonight with NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell .
KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: At first the unexpected sound of applause turned heads on the House floor. Then the stunned recognition, that really was her. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had come back, steadied by her husband, Mark Kelly , and chief of staff Pia Carusone .
Ms. PIA CARUSONE: It was incredible. I mean, it was a moment that we had been hoping for, praying for, thinking about since January 8th .
O'DONNELL: A few snapshots had been the only glimpse until now. Colleagues could not wait to greet her, touch her. New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell is still choked up about it.
Representative BILL PASCRELL: It was heartfelt. She smiled. I hugged her and then I raised her hand because she's a champion. When you just think about all that she's been through, how the hell can we complain about our late nights over the last month?
O'DONNELL: Debbie Wasserman Schultz was by her side.
Representative DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, we just knew that she would make a triumphant return, and we could -- you know, we knew her and could -- predicted that it would happen.
O'DONNELL: It had been six months, three weeks and four days since those shots were fired in Tucson . Giffords ' life was nearly taken then. She returned to take some of that life back. She tweeted, " The Capitol looks beautiful and I'm honored to be at work tonight." Giffords ' desk has been empty while her staff keeps going in her place. She had a private meeting with staffers today.
Ms. CARUSONE: She's heading back to Houston today to get back to therapy first thing tomorrow morning.
O'DONNELL: Giffords did not cast the deciding vote needed to pass the debt limit deal, but her vote made a difference. All that bitter fighting seemed to melt in the moment.
Senator KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (Democrat, New York): I don't think she had any sense that it would be as overwhelming and has -- and as emotional as it was. I mean, she had members from both parties coming up to her, hugging her, kissing her.
O'DONNELL: Close friend Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had lunch with Giffords today.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: She understands absolutely everything. She has opinions on everything. I think, you know, to be able to fully articulate her thoughts in the way she did before this awful crime I think will be her challenge.
O'DONNELL: And friends say they expect that Congresswoman Giffords will ultimately decide to run for re-election next year, and Senator Gillibrand says she told her at lunch today she'd help raise money and campaign for her. But aides say it's a little too soon for that. For now she is focused solely
on her recovery. Brian: Well, it was a moment everybody needed. Kelly O'Donnell on the Hill . Kelly , thanks.