Gabrielle Giffords struggled to form the words in her first extended interview since she was shot by a lone gunman in Tucson, Arizona, as she was holding a meeting with constituents in January.
In response to a question about whether she wanted to return to Congress, she said: “No. Better.” As she gestured as if to help her form the words, her husband Mark Kelly completed the thought: “She wants to get better.”
Interviewer Diane Sawyer asked whether she was thinking she would go back to Congress if she got better. “And that’s where you’re at right now?” Sawyer asked. “Yes, yes, yes,” Ms Giffords replied.
The story of the recovering congresswoman and her astronaut husband has riveted people in the US.
The television interview came as fellow victims of the shooting travelled to Washington to testify in favour of a gun-control bill.
They said Ms Giffords’ appearance represented a milestone for them, helping them cope with the trauma they’ve endured in recent months. About a dozen survivors and family members were lobbying for legislation that would extend criminal background checks to all gun sales and enhance the quality of the FBI’s criminal background checks.
Since the Democrat congresswoman made a surprise appearance on the House floor this summer to cast a vote on the debt ceiling increase, there has been widespread speculation about her career plans, including whether she would run for the state’s open Senate seat.
The ABC interview showed a woman who seemed confident and determined, but still far from able to carry on a detailed conversation. She spoke in a clear voice but in halting phrases. “Pretty good … Difficult … Strong, strong, strong,” she replied to questions about how she was feeling and how she had fared over the ten months since the shooting.
The interview was accompanied by a video shot by her husband documenting her recovery. The initial days and weeks showed her struggling to understand what had happened and to communicate in the most basic forms. She struggled just to learn how to nod and how to raise two fingers. When her therapist asked what one sits in, she replied, “spoon”, before later settling on “chair”. Mr Kelly said she used the word “cheeseburger” to describe several items.
Eventually, she learned to speak again – and to smile.
Her husband said he documented her recovery because he knew she would astonish the sceptics. “Gabby Giffords is too tough to let this beat her,” he said.
Mr Kelly said his wife was still improving and that she was interested in returning to Congress, if possible. He also said he would not run if she was unable to do so, adding: “It’s my job to make sure she can get better so she can go back to her career.”
Mr Kelly said his wife wanted to run but had not made the decision yet, adding that she would know when it was right.
Ms Giffords has undergone intensive therapy. At times, despair set in. One video clip showed her sobbing in her therapist’s arms.
“Can I tell you something? It is going to get better,” her therapist said. “You’ve come a long way in five weeks.”