Attack on lawmakers stirs memories of Giffords shooting
Posted June 15
PHOENIX — When Ron Barber saw the news that a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a baseball game, he immediately was taken back to when he was yelling his wife's name and phone number while lying on a gurney. Pam Simon remembers lying on the ground unable to move after the bullet went through her wrist into her chest.
The attack Wednesday in Virginia that left Rep. Steve Scalise in critical condition brought back painful memories for survivors of another shooting six years ago involving a member of Congress, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in Tucson, Arizona.
"It obviously floods back all the memories from Jan. 8," Simon said. "It really brings it back. You have PTSD symptoms that kind of flare up in things like this."
Giffords was holding a constituent event outside a grocery store in 2011 when gunman Jared Loughner opened fire, killing six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and shooting Giffords in the head, severely wounding her.
Wednesday's shooting happened in a similarly public place — a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia. Scalise and other Republican lawmakers were practicing for a charity game when James T. Hodgkinson started shooting and chaos erupted.
Hodgkinson, who had a long history of lashing out at Republicans, was shot and killed by police. Loughner, who is serving life in prison, had posted several online ramblings about politics before he shot Giffords, a Democrat, although in the end no clear motive emerged.
Barber, who took over Giffords' seat in Congress before narrowly losing a re-election bid in 2014, said Wednesday's shooting was a reminder of how low political discourse has fallen.
"The vitriol, the harsh rhetoric, the personal attacks, they have escalated to a point where I hardly recognize our political process anymore. We have to stop this," Barber said.
For others, it prompted strong feelings about keeping weapons out of the hands of the wrong people.
"This isn't a political issue nor was the one in Tucson," said Ken Dorushka, who was shot as he shielded his wife from Loughner. "Anybody who would willingly take a gun and shoot somebody is unstable regardless of their political bent."
Giffords, who now advocates for tighter gun laws through her political action committee she founded with her husband, Mark Kelly, said she was heartbroken.
"This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy," Giffords said in a written statement Wednesday. "May all Americans come together today with prayers for the survivors, love for their friends and family, and the courage to go about everyday making this country its best. Our nation is resilient, and we always come back stronger."
Six years ago, Sen. Jeff Flake had rushed from Phoenix to the hospital in Tucson when he heard Giffords was shot. On Wednesday, the Arizona Republican was at the baseball practice and tended to Scalise.
Flake said during an interview with CBS "This Morning" that he reached out to Giffords and Kelly.
"Those of us in Arizona remember well that situation a few years ago. So, I sure hope that this (brings) more unity, we need it around here," Flake said.
Simon said days like Wednesday don't feel normal because she gets a lot of calls from friends and reporters. She said she works through the difficult memories by getting together with loved ones and speaking about being positive and encouraging other survivors.
"The physical wounds fade but clearly the emotional ones are there. I have to disagree with the president when he made the statement that the congressman will have a complete recovery. No one who's been shot ever recovers emotionally," she said.