Giffords Soaring at ‘Top of the Sky’

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, right, and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida and chair of the Democratic National Committee, at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in this Sept. 6, 2012 file photo.

Updated at 4:05 pm EST

It was three years ago today that a gunman stepped into a small crowd where an Arizona congresswoman was greeting constituents and opened fire.

Gabby Giffords survived a devastating bullet to the head, but six of her constituents died that day in Tucson. In the three years since, she and her husband, retired astronaut and Navy combat pilot Mark Kelly, have pressed their case for tougher gun controls from a Congress unmoved by shootings even more deadly, most notably the schoolhouse killings of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

And today, to celebrate her hard-fought recovery, she took “a leap of faith.”

In an essay in the New York Times today, Gifford writes:

“Three years ago, dispatched to an almost certain death by an assassin’s bullet, I was allowed the opportunity for a new life. I had planned to spend my 40s continuing my public service and starting a family. I thought that by fighting for the people I cared about and loving those close to me, I could leave the world a better place. And that would be enough.” `

`Instead, I’ve spent the past three years learning how to talk again, how to walk again. I had to learn to sign my name with my left hand. It’s gritty, painful, frustrating work, every day. Rehab is endlessly repetitive. And it’s never easy, because once you’ve mastered some movement or action or word, no matter how small, you move on to the next. You never rest.”

The group she and her husband founded, Americans for Responsible Solutions, raised $6.6 million in the first half of 2013, including $250,000 from retired New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, c0-founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent company of Bloomberg News. The group spent $1.9 million on all expenses though hasn’t reported yet what it spent on lobbying after registering late last year. It will report its spending in the second half of the year by Jan. 31.

Their cause may be mired in a deadlocked Congress reluctant to antagonize the National Rifle Association.

But today, the ex-astronaut’s wife was soaring.

Giffords got a lot of encouragement for this jump — and invited one well-wisher to join her next time.

Greg Giroux contributed to this report.

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