Reporting Doug Dunbar
My interview with Mark Kelly lasted only about 15 minutes. But do this job long enough, and you can tell a lot about a person pretty quick. For me, Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is a guy who wears his emotions and passions, on his sleeve.
We talked about the day his wife was shot by Jared Loughner. Kelly was in Houston, the shooting was in Tucson. His wife’s chief of staff called, saying she’d been shot. Kelly was stunned, but hopped a friends private plane, and was headed to Tucson in short order. What I had not heard until I spoke with Mark Kelly, was that on that plane ride, some media had reported that Gabby had died. That word filtered to Mark, in flight. He was stunned, and refused to accept that news. When he landed, his prayers came true.
Mark Kelly minced no words in what it was like the first time he saw his wife in the hospital. “She just looked, not the same. It was a horrific injury, and a very emotional time for all of us.”
I talked to Mark about the time after Gabby was released from hospital care. Sure, there would be therapy sessions, in home and at a facility, but all in all, he became her primary care-giver. Something that can take a toll on a person.
“I was there for her. You know, it’s important in these situations to have a team of people supporting you, it’s really important.”
One of the elements I could not fit into the interview which aired on CBS11, was when I asked him about what he had learned so far, through all of this. His response: “I’m a little more patient than I thought I was maybe. Probably more than anything, you know it was a tough time, a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of moving parts.”
Kelly is an engineer. A pilot. A guy who deals with problems through analysis and action. He can work around a computer problem on the Space Shuttle, or in a plane. His entire professional career has been learning to deal with problems in a matter of fact, checklist sort of way. Gifford’s shooting, was a problem he had no checklist for.
“You know, I was always good at multi-tasking. This was a major exercise in that.”
When I asked Mark what a good day was like these days for his wife, he said her biggest smiles come when she’s around people.
“She gets a lot out of being in front of an organization, she really loves it.”
Kelly shared what we’ve all read, on their stance on gun control. Both are outspoken advocates of the second amendment, but also, have put their foot firmly in the pond of more gun control. Specifically, they’d like to see more background checks, a limit on magazine capacity, and a closing of the gun show loophole. They have formed a political action committee “American’s For Responsible Solutions.” Through the PAC, they hope to raise some 20 million dollars, to directly affect the 2014 elections around the country. They do this Kelly says, not because of the shooting of his wife. It was the shootings in Newtown, Ct, that stopped them both cold, in their tracks. A visit to Newtown in January of 2013, told them all they need to know.
“Many of these families, young couples that lost their first graders were there in that living room, and it was really very difficult, to be there knowing these people lost their kids.”
This husband-wife team will be seen and heard for weeks and months ahead, as big voices in the fight for gun control. Kelly said in no way, did he ever expect to be in the middle of a political fight like this, in his life. But he’s here now, and with the support of each other, they have formed a checklist of things they want to see changed. It will be a tough fight, but two years removed from being shot in the head, and Gabrielle Giffords has already proven she has plenty of fight in her.
My final question to Kelly was about whether his wife has accepted a “new normal” in life, or if she continues to vow to get back to the person she was before the shooting. Not a surprise when he said, “Gabby is always working to get back to where she was, and I’m always there to support her.”
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