The doctor for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Tuesday he hopes the wounded congresswoman can make enough progress to attend her husband’s space launch in two months, describing it as a goal to work toward as many in Arizona paused to mark one month since she was shot at a political event.
The space shuttle Endeavor will leave April 19 for a two-week mission to the International Space Station, and astronaut Mark Kelly announced last week that he’ll be aboard and expects his wife, who was shot in the forehead, to see him off.
Dr. Gerard Francisco said doctors would have to make decisions on a variety of medical issues for that to happen, including whether Giffords can fly to Cape Canaveral, Fla., how much assistance she would need, and how much noise she can tolerate.
“It’s too early to say. It’s only early February,” said Francisco, the head of Giffords’ rehabilitation team at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston. He said Giffords is doing “very well,” but wouldn’t provide details, including whether she is able to speak or if she’s been told about the attack.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, Kelly wrote it’s hard to believe only one month had passed.
“The doctors say she is recovering at lightning speed considering her injury, but they aren’t kidding when they say this is a marathon process,” he said. “There are encouraging signs every day, though.”
Kelly wrote that Giffords has her appetite back and is enjoying three meals a day “even though it’s hospital food.”
He said he wants the families of the other victims and the entire Tucson community to know that his wife “will soon stand by your side to mourn this tragedy and learn how we can heal.”
By appearances, Tucson has largely returned to normal since six people were killed Jan. 8 outside a supermarket. Massive makeshift memorials to the victims have been dismantled and boxed in locked storage for a future permanent memorial. The grocery store has reopened.
But the 13 survivors are struggling with their injuries and the emotional scars.
“People come up and hug me and I just start bawling,” said Susan Hileman, 58, who survived three gunshot wounds. “And they feel so bad for making me cry, but my husband says, ‘It’s all right, it’s what we do these days.'”
Hileman was holding 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green’s hand when the shooting erupted, and Christina was killed.
Christina’s Little League team is raising money for a memorial fund in her name by selling shirt patches commemorating her life. Caroline Auza, board member of the Canyon del Oro Little League, told the Arizona Daily Star that 5,000 patches costing $3.92 have been sold nationwide and that number is expected to grow.
Office workers at a title agency in the shopping complex where the shooting occurred held a lunch Tuesday to raise money for the victims.
Mary Ann Christensen, executive vice president with Landmark Title, said about 360 people attended and nearly $7,000 was raised. The money will be given to the nonprofit Homicide Survivors to be given to victims of the shooting.
“It was an event to help us all,” Christensen said. “We feel very uplifted.”
In Phoenix, the family of a Giffords aide killed in the attack joined lawmakers to call for a new state law to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines like the one used in the rampage.
Gabe Zimmerman’s fiancée said she supports the right to own a gun, but said Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old Tucson man charged in the shooting, clearly intended to kill many more people.
“One month ago today my life was changed forever,” said Kelly O’Brien. “Something good must come of this tragedy. This must not be allowed to happen again.”
The bill faces a difficult road to passage in the Republican-led Legislature, which has a strong record of supporting gun rights.
“We have the capability of stopping the carnage of any of these future events at 10 bullets instead of 31,” said Rep. Steve Farley, who represents Tucson. “That’s a commonsense bill.”
But gun rights advocates said it would not have prevented the tragedy.
“I think it’s wrong-headed, misguided, unconstitutional, and I don’t think it will have any chance of passing out of this Legislature, much less than being heard,” said John Wentling, a lobbyist for gun rights group called Arizona Citizens Defense League.
A second piece of legislation would require educational institutions and public agencies to notify health authorities about terminations, expulsions and suspensions resulting from violence or threatening behavior.
Loughner was kicked out of Pima Community College because of behavior that campus police considered disturbing. He was told to get a mental health evaluation or not return.
That bill has bipartisan support, and some Arizona lawmakers said they’ve seen a new willingness to work together since the shooting. House Minority Whip Matt Heinz said he was finding Republicans receptive to work on several policy issues in the session’s first month.
“I certainly feel a sense of more unity, and it’s not so much us versus them,” he said.
But Farley, the chief sponsor of the gun-magazine bill, said he thinks the shooting is now fading for many lawmakers, particularly those from other parts of the state.
“When I come up I-10, it’s almost like it never happened,” said Farley, referring to the major interstate freeway that links Arizona’s capital city with Tucson. “In Tucson, we’re still in the middle of it.”
Associated Press Writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report. Plushnick-Masti contributed from Houston.