FIRST PERSON | When an email from the office of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hit my inbox Sunday morning, I had no way of knowing that tears would fill my eyes before I finished reading it. The email's subject line read, "Doing what is best for Arizona," and the body included a letter from Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly.
The letter began by expressing gratitude for the outpouring of support the couple have received since the horrific events of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting. It concluded by explaining Giffords would be retiring from Congress later this week. A video message in the email allowed Giffords to deliver this news to her constituents first-hand.
In the video, Giffords chose her words carefully. This news did not come as a shock to me. As one of Giffords' constituents, I do feel her resignation is the best decision for all concerned going forward. But on a personal level, it was still very difficult to hear her explain her choice to step down. Often, the right choice is the most difficult one, and I am so proud of Giffords for making this decision.
Some people in our tight-knit community have expressed concern over a lack of representation for Tucson in the past year. Earlier this month, while working on a related story, I contacted Giffords' office and spoke to press liaison Mark Kimble about Tucson being adequately represented. According to Kimble , "Our office has continued to do much of what we did before. Initiatives [important to the Congresswoman] have been advanced." Unfortunately, that just isn't good enough.
We didn't elect the office of Gabrielle Giffords to represent us; we elected Gabby Giffords. Until and unless Giffords is able to recover to the point of competently returning to politics full-force, I agree with her decision to retire. It is what's best for Tucson, it is what's best for Arizona and it is likely what's best for Giffords.
The congresswoman needs to focus on her recovery, and enjoying her life with her family and friends. The stress of being a government official is not likely something she can properly manage at this time, and to attempt it could end up doing more harm than good for all involved.
With that being said, there is nothing that I nor many of my fellow Tucson residents would like to see more than Gabrielle Giffords representing us again. Giffords remains a positive fixture of our community; a determined champion of our causes, a kind-hearted leader we can always count on to promote progress, justice and compassion. While many things changed on Jan. 8, 2011, some things are far beyond the reach of a madman's rifle.