TUCSON — Gabrielle Giffords marked the third anniversary of being shot in the head at a Tucson political rally by skydiving on Wednesday, part of a stunning recovery that has included learning to walk and talk again and founding a national organization that pushes gun control measures.
Across the city, others gathered for bell-ringing and flag-raising ceremonies to remember the six killed and 13 injured, including Giffords, on Jan. 8, 2011, as the former Arizona congresswoman met with constituents outside a grocery store.
Giffords waved and blew kisses to a crowd at a skydiving site between Phoenix and Tucson after successfully landing without injury.
“Gabby landed beautifully. Happy she's safe. So proud of her bravery,” Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote on his Twitter account after the tandem jump with his wife strapped to a professional skydiver.
Jimmy Hatch, a former Navy SEAL who accompanied Giffords along with others, said the group held hands and formed a circle shortly after exiting the aircraft then made a line with Giffords in the middle.
“She was the least nervous person on the plane,” Hatch said, calling Giffords a “rock star” for making the jump on such an emotional day.
“They did a little moment of silence at the drop zone,” he said. “The emotion was really heavy. Then she smiled and said, ‘Let's go.' ”
Giffords' jump will be broadcast Thursday on NBC's “Today” show.
In Tucson, about 100 residents attended a ceremony outside the University of Arizona Medical Center, where the injured were treated. A bell was rung once for each victim as the Rev. Joe Fitzgerald spoke to the crowd.
“Today, we gather to remember the tragic day three years ago when our community was deeply wounded,” he said.
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