TUCSON, AZ (CBS4) – A South Florida Congresswoman said it was nothing short of a miracle as she watched U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords open her eyes for the first time after being shot over the weekend.
“It felt like we were watching a miracle,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The strength that you could see flowing out of her, it was like she was trying to will her eyes open.”
Wasserman Schultz, who’s from Weston, was in Giffords’ hospital room with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY. Both women, who are close friends of Giffords, traveled to Arizona with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.
The three women became close friends while they were all serving in the House. Giffords and her husband would often go on double-dates with Gillibrand and take summer vacations to New Hampshire with Wasserman Schultz’s family.
Wasserman Schultz said they were sharing these memories with Giffords when she signaled that she knew they were there. Gillibrand was holding Giffords’ left hand when she said she started to feel it move and then squeeze her hand. Then Giffords’ right eye started to flicker. (Her left eye, damaged in the shooting, is bandaged.) For about 30 seconds, Giffords struggled, before finally opening her eye wide and straining to focus on her friends, husband, parents and doctor.
“We knew she could hear and understand what we were saying,” Gillibrand told reporters traveling back to Washington with the president Thursday morning.
Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly then told his wife to give them a thumbs-up if she could hear him. Instead, she slowly raised her left arm.
“The doctor said this is amazing what she’s doing right now and beyond our greatest hopes,” Gillibrand said.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had visited with Giffords and her husband earlier in the day before attending a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shooting rampage.
Kelly told the president and first lady about the development as they drove from the hospital to the University of Arizona’s McKale Center for the memorial service and gave Mr. Obama permission to tell the crowd about his wife’s progress.
“Gabby opened her eyes,” Obama told the cheering crowd. “So I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey.”
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