Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a close friend of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords', was in the Tucson hospital room last night when the congresswoman opened her eyes for the first time after being shot in the head during Saturday's mass shooting.
Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman representing Broward County, was in the room with U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Nancy Pelosi, and members of Giffords' family when it happened. President Barack Obama announced the news that Giffords had opened her eyes during his memorial speech last night, saying he had just left the hospital room himself when it happened.
Wasserman Schultz said Giffords began to try to open her eyes as she was talking to her about New Hampshire, where the two women had vacationed together at Wasserman Schultz's home there. "I told her, 'C'mon you have to get better as soon as possible because I expect you up in New Hampshire this summer,' and just as I said that, that's when she suddenly [began] struggling to open her eyes," Wasserman Schultz said in a CNN interview last night. "First just a little bit. The doctors couldn't believe it... She went from opening her eyes really just in slits to opening them almost fully."
Giffords' husband, Mark, began talking to her, asking her to touch his wedding ring and give the thumbs-up if she could see them. Giffords, who had a bandage over one eye, responded by lifting her entire arm.
"She looked not anything like you would imagine someone with a gunshot wound to the head would look," Wasserman Schultz told reporters later. "She looked angelic, I have to tell you. It was stunning. I mean, she -- the strength that she has is -- we were already aware of, but it clearly -- I mean, it just resonates all the way through her."
Giffords' family invited Wasserman Schultz to come to Tucson with Obama on Air Force One. Here's a transcript of the interviews with Wasserman Schultz and Giffords on Air Force One after the event. Inside, hear Wasserman Schultz describe the event and a remembrance of a chilling event during Wasserman Schultz's own campaign involving a wayward Tea Party candidate.
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UPDATED: Goldilocks reminded us below of one of the most ill-conceived campaign stunts in Broward history. When Tea Party candidate Robert Lowry ran against Wasserman Schultz, he went to the firing range with members of the Southeast Broward Republican Club and put the congresswoman's initials, DWS, on a human-shaped target. Lowry later called it a mistake. Here's a vid made from the day the GOP hit Pembroke Gun and Range: