Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords narrowly escaped death three years ago, and she marked the anniversary in fearless fashion Wednesday: by skydiving.
The Arizona politician’s life changed forever on Jan. 8, 2011, when a disturbed local man opened fire during a ceremony outside a Tucson grocery store. Six people died and 13 were wounded, including Giffords, who suffered life-threatening and ultimately life-altering injuries after being shot in the head.
Yet Giffords, 43, intended to send a clear message on Wednesday when she jumped out of a plane in her home state with a Navy SEAL and a parachute strapped to her back – and a big smile on her face. “I’m alive,” she told Today‘s Savannah Guthrie, who covered her bold leap.
Giffords’s survival was deemed miraculous following the shooting, although the magnitude of the injuries forced her to resign from Congress in January 2012. Today, she still has difficulty finding words quickly when speaking, and suffers from partial paralysis on the right side of her body.
However, none of that seemed to matter on Wednesday when she eagerly jumped, grinning as she descended toward the ground. Guthrie reported that Giffords was the calmest one on the plane (which included husband and former astronaut Mark Kelly) before the jump – perhaps because she has already overcome bigger obstacles.
“It’s been step by step since I was shot three years ago,” Giffords wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday. “I’ve overcome a lot. Progress has come from working hard. Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step.”