Rep. Gabrielle Giffords formally said goodbye to Congress today, a little more than one year after the deadly Tucson shooting.
There didn't seem to be a dry eye in the chamber as the now-former Congresswoman slowly walked to the podium, escorted by her friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to physically hand her resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
Her colleagues gave her a standing ovation and Boehner cried. Wasserman Schultz also got choked up while reading Giffords’ letter aloud.
Giffords has been undergoing intense physical and speech therapy after being shot in the head last January. She was one of 13 people injured in the deadly shooting. Six others were killed in the attack.
On Sunday, she announced her decision to leave her Arizona seat in order to focus on her long-term recovery.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer plans to set a date for a special primary and general election to fill the now-vacated seat.
Read Giffords' incredibly touching resignation letter after the jump.
In 2001, strongly holding the belief that there is no higher calling than serving my country, I went from selling tires in my Tucson family business to being a freshman representative in the Arizona state house and for 10 years I served in the Arizona legislature, in the United States Congress and after marrying Mark as a proud military spouse, always, I fought for what I thought was right. But never did I question the character of those with whom I disagreed. Never did I let pass an opportunity to join hands with someone just because he or she held different ideals.
In public service, I found a venue for my pursuit of a stronger America, by ensuring the safety and security of all Americans, by producing clean energy here at home instead of importing oil from abroad and by honoring our brave men and women in uniform with the benefits that they earned. I found a way to care for others and in the past year I have found a value that is unbreakable even by the most vicious of attacks.
The tragic January 8 shooting in Tucson took the lives of six beautiful Americans and wounded 13 others, me included. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grief for the lives lost and so many others torn apart. Christina Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, John Roll, Phyllis Schneck and Gabe Zimmerman embodied the best of America. Each in their own way, they committed their lives to serving their families, community and country and they died performing a basic but important act of citizenship that’s at the heart of our greatness as a nation. They will always be remembered, always. They will be remembered always by their country and by their Congress.
I don’t remember much from that terrible day but I have never forgotten that my constituents, my colleagues or the millions of Americans with whom I share great hopes for this nation. to all of them, thank you for your prayers, your cards, your well wishes and your support. And even as I have worked to regain my speech, thank you for your faith and my ability to be your voice. The only way I ever served my district in Congress was by giving 100%. this past year that’s what I have given to my recovery. Thank you for your patience. From my first steps and first words after being shot to my current physical and speech therapy, I have given all of myself to being able to walk back onto the House floor this year to represent Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District.
However, today I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office. This past year my colleagues and staff have worked to make sure my constituents were represented in Congress but if I can’t return, my district deserves to elect a US Representative who can give 100% to the job now. For that reason, I have submitted the attached letter of resignation to Arizona governor [Jan Brewer]. Amid all that was lost on January 8, there was also hope and faith. This past year it is what I have often clung to. Hope that our government can represent the best of a nation, not the worst. Faith that Americans working together in their communities and our Congress can succeed without qualification. Hope and faith that even as we are set back by tragedy or profound disagreement. In the end, we come together as Americans to set a course toward greatness. Every day I am working hard. I will recover and will return and we will work together again for Arizona and for all Americans.