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Gabrielle Giffords photos inspire friends and strangers alike

New photos of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the Tucson attack in January, bring relief at evident progress. She still struggles to communicate, but friends say “she looks beautiful.”

By Staff writer / June 12, 2011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with her mother Gloria Giffords in a photo posted to Rep. Giffords’ Facebook page Sunday morning June 12. Giffords could be released from a rehabilitation hospital in Houston sometime this month, a top aide says, offering the latest indication that the Arizona congresswoman is making progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.

P.K. Weis/ Giffords Campaign/AP

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Her hair is no longer long and blonde now; it’s short and dark. But the first photos of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords taken since she was shot in the head in January show a smiling, engaged woman with barely a trace of the physical wounds resulting from the attack that killed or injured 19 other people in Tucson, Ariz.

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The photos, posted to Rep. Giffords’ Facebook page Sunday morning, are an important step in a story of private perserverance and recovery as well as public soul-searching about gun violence and political rhetoric in America today.

Those close to Giffords say that while she’s made steady improvement in her communication and other skills, there is still far to go in her rehabilitation. But for now, the photos offer a kind of proof of that rehabilitation, a relief at seeing evident progress.

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“It was very inspiring to see how much she had recovered,” said P.K. Weis, the veteran photographer who’s known Giffords for years and was invited to take the photos.

“I was excited to see her and to see her smile,” Weis said on Giffords’ Facebook page. “She was glad to see me, was in a good mood, smiling and laughing and seemed to enjoy the experience. I certainly did, too.”

Others who know her were similarly impressed.

“Wow! I saw her at the very end of March, and even then, Gabby was all there, her smile, her personality. And she looks even better now,” wrote Arizona State Senator Linda Lopez, a friend of Giffords. “I think people are going to be very happy to see how great she looks. For someone who’s undergone what she’s endured, it’s really something. I feel relieved. She looks beautiful.”

The photos were taken outside the TIRR Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, where Giffords has been undergoing rehabilitation. She is expected to be leave the hospital for outpatient rehabilitation within a month.

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