The Gabby I Know

Article excerpt

Byline: Kirsten Gillibrand

We went on double dates and fought for families. Then Gabrielle Giffords was shot--and I witnessed my friend's courage up close.

A week before the tragic shooting in Arizona, Gabby Giffords and I shared our political battle stories over pizza. We were on a double date with our husbands at a favorite D.C. haunt, talking about the rough-and-tumble campaigns we had faced, the personal attacks, the opponents who wanted to take our legs out early, as they say. Gabby mentioned how hard it was to endure the negative campaigning; I remember her saying that the way to withstand it is to ignore it. I could hear the relief in her voice at just having ended a grueling race. It takes a tough skin, she said.

That was last January, and I had known Gabby for four years. We had become fast friends, as we were two of the few young women in Congress. We were serving together on the Armed Services Committee, and I liked the perspective she brought. While our male colleagues often talked about military equipment, she and I focused more on military families--and problems such as the divorce rate and suicides among soldiers. In debating the issues, Gabby had a determined "stick-to-it-iveness" that I admired.

She would need that trait to overcome a far greater attack than the negative campaigning she so disliked.

I first heard Gabby had been shot from a friend. News reports were saying at that point that she had been killed. "I don't believe it," I remember telling my husband, tears streaming down my face. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. Deep down, I didn't believe it was true. Soon after, I learned she had survived--and I knew then that she would get through this. …