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Giffords vows return to Congress, describes being shot

This, most recent photo of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords since she was shot, was posted to her public Facebook page by her aides early Sunday, June 12, 2011.

P.K. Weis/The Associated Press/P.K. Weis/The Associated Press

Representative Gabrielle Giffords vows to return to U.S. Congress in a new book that describes her months of intense therapy and her emotional struggle to come to terms with being shot in the head at point-blank range.

The memoir, titled Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, is the most personal and detailed look yet at Ms. Giffords's efforts over the past 10 months to relearn how to walk and talk, and her painful discovery that six people were killed in the Jan. 8 attack outside a Tucson grocery store. The book is set for release on Nov. 15.

The book is written by Ms. Giffords's husband, former astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, but Ms. Giffords delivers the last chapter – a single page of short sentences and phrases called "Gabby's Voice" in which she says her goal is to get back to Congress.

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"I will get stronger. I will return," she wrote.

Ms. Giffords, 40, stunned colleagues by appearing on the House floor on Aug. 1 to vote for the debt-ceiling deal, but she has largely avoided the public eye, focusing most of her time on her recovery at TIRR Memorial Hermann, a rehabilitation centre in Houston. The book reveals that because of her injuries, she has lost 50 per cent of her vision in both eyes.

In the book, Capt. Kelly recalls trying to tell his wife several times that she had been shot in the head while meeting constituents. But she didn't fully understand until March 12.

Capt. Kelly asked Ms. Giffords if she remembered being shot, and she replied that she did. When he asked what she remembered about it, she said three words: "Shot. Shocked. Scary."

Later that day, Capt. Kelly was reading to her from a New York Times article about her recovery and skipped over a paragraph that said six others were killed. Ms. Giffords had been following along and knew he left something out. She pushed him to tell her what it was.

After she learned of the deaths, Ms. Giffords was overcome with emotion and had trouble getting through her therapy. That night as they lay in bed, she told her husband that she felt awful about the deaths. He held her as she cried.

Six months later, after being released from the Houston hospital to Capt. Kelly's home 30 kilometres away, Ms. Giffords wanted to know who had been killed. He warned her that it would be tough on her because she knew two of the victims.

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He started by telling her that her staff member Gabe Zimmerman died, which caused her to moan and cry in a wave of emotion. Then he told her about her friend, federal Judge John Roll, and the four other people she didn't know. Finally, he told her that Christina Taylor-Green, a nine-year-old girl born on Sept. 11, 2001, was among the dead.

Capt. Kelly recounted the agonizing moments when several media outlets inaccurately reported that Ms. Giffords was dead. He grew more hopeful after learning she was alive and was being treated at a Tucson hospital.

When Capt. Kelly first saw Ms. Giffords after the shooting, she was in a coma, with her head partially shaved and bandaged, her face black and blue, and her body connected to tubes. He told her he loved her and that she was going to survive.

He also describes the early days in her recovery in Texas, saying the darkest moment came when she panicked after realizing she couldn't talk. Her eyes were wide with fear, and she was crying uncontrollably as Capt. Kelly tried to comfort her and assure her that she would get better.

The book also offers lighter moments, such as when President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, visited. Ms. Giffords kept replying to Mr. Bush with the only word she was able to say: "chicken."

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