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Ceremonies To Commemorate Tuscon Shooting


Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will be in Tucson this weekend, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting which left six people dead and 13 wounded, including Giffords herself. NPR's Ted Robbins looks back on last January and the year since.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Before the rest of the world knew what had happened January 8th, a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Tucson got this phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Was somebody shot then, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. This guy - it looked like the guy had a semi automatic pistol and he went in and he just started firing. And...

ROBBINS: Witnesses said 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire in front of a Safeway supermarket, where Gabby Giffords was holding a Congress on Your Corner event. Among those killed, federal judge John Roll, Giffords staff member Gabe Zimmerman and nine-year-old Christina Taylor-Green, who came to meet her congresswoman. Giffords herself spent the next few days clinging to life. Dr. Peter Rhee was the trauma surgeon in charge.

DR. PETER RHEE: You know, when you get shot in the head and the bullet goes through your brain the chances of you living is very small, the chances of you waking up and actually following commands is even much smaller than that.

ROBBINS: Gabby Giffords did wake up. And four days later, opened her eyes. President Barack Obama announced it in a televised speech before a crowd at the University of Arizona's basketball arena. He then summoned the country to live up to the ideals of Christina Taylor-Green.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

ROBBINS: For that moment and the next several weeks, Tucson, at least, came together.


GROUP: (Singing) This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine.

ROBBINS: Songs, flowers, candles, and hugs seemed to be everywhere. Tucson began to heal, along with Gabby Giffords, who went to Houston for rehabilitation. In May, she was able to watch her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, go up in the next-to-last space shuttle flight from Florida. Last month, Kelly told NPR that his wife continues to improve, even as she struggles with weakness on her right side and difficulty with her speech.

MARK KELLY: You know, getting frustrated is, from what I understand, is one of those things that's helped rebuild those connections in her brain.

REPRESENTATIVE GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: There is a lot to say. I will speak better.

ROBBINS: Giffords recorded this message in November.

GIFFORDS: I want to get back to work. Representing Arizona is my honor. My staff is there to help you.

MARK KIMBLE: We talk with her on a regular basis, and quite often there's someone from our staff with her.

ROBBINS: That's Giffords spokesman Mark Kimble. He says what many victims, friends and family members say - that they're coping.

KIMBLE: It's not the same raw wound it was last year in early January, but it hasn't gone away.

ROBBINS: Gabby Giffords herself probably put it best.

GIFFORDS: It's been a hard year for all of us.

ROBBINS: Anniversary events begin today and run through Sunday. They end with an outdoor candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona at which Gabby Giffords is scheduled to appear.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

INSKEEP: You may recall the man accused of the shooting, Jared Loughner, was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. Loughner is being given medication and therapy, which, according to those treating him, are helping his schizophrenia. Still, it's likely to be 2013 before he's tried – if he's ever put on trial.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.