Most people know Gabby Giffords because she gained national headlines after a shot to the head nearly claimed her life in 2011 (via People). The Arizona representative was actually one of the lucky ones — six other people unthinkably perished in the mass shooting, including a 9-year-old child. Since the horrible accident, Giffords has, according to her speech at the DNC this week, fought daily to recover.
In her brave remarks, the now-retired congresswoman said, “I’ve known the darkest of days. Days of pain and uncertain recovery. But confronted by despair, I’ve summoned hope. My recovery is a daily fight but fighting makes me stronger. Words once came easily. Today I struggle to speak.” But speak she does, in many cases advocating for gun reform.
Although Giffords has chosen to take a step back from public service, her husband, Mark Kelly, is stepping up. He will run for the Arizona Senate this year. But that’s far from the only thing to know about him.
From the sky to the Senate
Mark Kelly was a Navy pilot and an astronaut, according to People. Fast Company notes Kelly is best-known for taking part in a twins study — his brother Scott Kelly spent a year at the International Space Station, and Mark stayed with his feet firmly planted on Earth. Scientists then compared the brothers. He also captained missions to space on the well-known shuttles Discovery and Endeavour.
Kelly was actually in Houston training for his next mission the day Giffords was shot. According to Parade, he immediately got on a plane to be with his wife as reports circulated that she had not survived the attack. “Ninety percent of people who suffer that kind of wound don’t survive,” Kelly soberly told the outlet, adding, “and the ones that do typically never get out of bed again.” Incredibly, Giffords would go on to recover, and by many accounts, flourish. Meanwhile, Kelly went back into space four months later.
Kelly had an interesting take on his choice to go back into space, saying, “I believe the one-in-a-million thing won’t happen again. It’s like when I flew into space four months after Gabby was shot. She was the first female elected official in the history of our country to be nearly assassinated. So what are the odds that I blow up in the space shuttle a couple months later? The odds went down. That’s how I think about it.”
Mark Kelly was married before he met Gabby Giffords
As noted by Parade, Kelly and Giffords met a few times starting in 2003, and became friends before anything romantic happened. The astronaut and Desert Storm veteran was newly divorced and living with his two daughters, Claire and Claudia, now in their 20s.
The couple wed in 2007 according to AZ Central, and actually embarked upon a long-distance marriage — she was working in Washington, D.C. while he remained in Arizona. But the shooting changed that arrangement. “There’s no doubt about it: The six years since the shooting have brought us a lot closer together,” Giffords told Parade in 2017. “Now we live in the same place and see each other more than we ever did.”
What to expect from Mark Kelly's Senate campaign
In a play on words meant to evoke his impressive past resume, Kelly’s campaign site says, “The mission comes first.” He goes on to explain his priority is the people of Arizona, not taking money from special interest groups.
Giffords is prominently featured on the site, and in fact, Kelly shares about his new ambitions, “I never expected to be here. Gabby was always the member of Congress in the family, and the person who taught me everything I know about how to use policy to improve people’s lives. I bring a different set of experiences to the table than most in Washington. Seeing the challenges that we face as a state and a country, I know I can put these experiences to use to make a difference in the lives of people here in Arizona.”
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