U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords returned to the scene of the crime for the first time Sunday.
The scene was the parking lot of a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz., where Giffords was holding an informal meet-and-greet with her constituents. The crime was a madman firing into the crowd, shooting the Democratic congresswoman in the head; killing six people, including one of her top aides and a politically precocious 9-year-old girl who had pleaded to be taken to the event; and wounding 12 others.
Giffords was left unable to talk or walk and the doctors were frank to say that serious head wounds heal, or fail to heal, in mysterious ways. Gifford faced a year of intense rehabilitation and physical therapy, basically having to learn from scratch how to be a functioning human being.
Along the way, there were various landmarks in her recovery. She returned to Washington to cast a vote. She went to Florida to watch her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, complete the final U.S. space shuttle mission. And she gave an extended network TV interview that, encouragingly, showed how far she had come and, heartbreakingly, how far she still had to go.
On Sunday she climbed a podium, her husband hovering protectively, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance in a strong, clear voice. Her recovery, incomplete as it is, has been called miraculous.
Giffords has four months to decide whether to run for re-election. That decision, of course, is up to her and her family and her election up to her Tucson constituents, although she is said to be a prohibitive sentimental favorite.
Those caveats aside, we hope she decides to run, as a demonstration of the resilience and optimism of our political system, a demonstration that psychotic assassins may momentarily disrupt our democracy but cannot fundamentally alter it.
And having Giffords back in Congress would be a small redemption for 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, who was happily anticipating exercising her democratic prerogative of questioning her elected representative. She had planned to ask about the Gulf oil spill until the gunman, now being forcibly medicated at a federal psychiatric facility, cut short her life and her hopes for a career in politics.
If Giffords must still think long and hard to formulate her thoughts and find the words to articulate them, that, too, might be an inspiration to her fellow lawmakers.