On January 8, 2011, I helped set up a community gathering with my fellow Congressional staff members. We called these events Congress on Your Corner. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords looked forward to meeting with her constituents face to face. A gunman opened fire a few minutes after Gabby arrived, and in less than 20 seconds, six people lay dead and 13 others were wounded. I had been shot in the arm and chest. In those few seconds, my life changed forever.
The survivor journey would truly take a library to explain and then some parts of this experience continue to evolve and surface. However, one change in my life is how I start my day. Often even before my eyes are open, I say words of gratitude to God, to the universe, to the mystery that allowed me to live to meet my grandchildren, to celebrate my 50th anniversary, to live another day. The gift of another day was taken for granted before the bullet sailed through my body, narrowly missing my lungs and heart.
And as the day progresses and the daily irritations and frustrations invade, I have another reminder. The FBI returned, at my request, my bullet. It sits on a shelf in a little bottle right above my desk as a continual reminder that I need to work to make each day count, to work towards an end to gun violence, and most importantly, to be kind to my fellow humans and live a life of gratitude.