Friday, September 7, 2012

Charlotte, Day 3: Gabby Giffords, our hero

THE DIMINUTIVE gold-medaling gymnast phenom of the 2012 London Olympic Games has lately become the darling of the moment on a first-name basis with America. But Gabby Douglas shares that name with another American hero, one whose trajectory into the national heart was a tragic one. Gabby Giffords earned her gold medal the real hard way.

Giffords came to Charlotte to read the Pledge of Allegiance, and walked out on stage to thunderous applause last night. Still visibly hobbled by the effects of being shot in a January 2011 assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz. (six people were killed in the shooting), the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman took the stage helped by DNC Chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who walked this journey with Giffords as she has for months. Doing what a true friend does.

If you saw it, you felt the subtle crack in your solar plexus, and you knew what was coming. Gabby Giffords is radiant. Incandescent. She stands, a little unsteady at first, and then recites the Pledge of Allegiance. It never sounded so good.

And then, with the timing of a Hollywood actress (which she’s looking more and more like all the time!), she pivots best she can ... and throws the crowd a kiss.

Her speech and cadence weren’t pitch-perfect (another effect of the shooting) and so frickin’ what? It was undeniable; at that moment she was the personification of American grit and the drive to survive and excel. In literally one minute, she had become America.

The very act of her being there — the hard, unalloyed proof of the indomitable will to survive — was in and of itself a testament to the dogged strength of the American spirit. The human spirit.

People across America were in tears. People in the hall were in tears. Rachel Maddow was in tears. Guess who else.

Image credit: Gabby: DNC pool image.

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