ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: On the return trip from Tucson on Air Force One, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz recounted to reporters their experience at the hospital earlier last night when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes for the first time.
Gillibrand and Wasserman Schultz described Giffords as one of their closest friends in Washington and spoke about bond that the three young lawmakers and their families have had over the last several years. That includes dinners out in Washington, summer vacations and “ladies lunches” in the Capitol.
Below are portions of the transcript of their remarks on Air Force One, provided by the White House.
On Giffords Opening Her Eyes for the First Time…
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: And we just were so excited, so we were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring the whole nation with her courage and with her strength. And then Debbie and I started joking about all the things we were going to do after she got better. And we were holding her hand and she was responding to our hand-holding. She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands so we could -- she could really -- we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding. And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.
And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened -- we didn’t know that -- and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. And we didn’t -- I didn’t know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s a good -- we couldn’t figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.
And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just -- can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.
REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Exactly. The only way I could describe the feeling that we had, that I had, was other than the birth of my kids, this was the most incredible feeling, to see literally your -- one of your closest friends just struggle to come back to you, to come back to her family, to come back to her friends. I mean, we know how strong Gabby is and you could see all the strength pouring out of her to touch her husband –
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: It was raw courage. It was raw strength. It was so beautiful and so moving. And, I mean, as I said, we were in tears. We couldn’t believe our eyes how courageous she was and how much she wanted to talk to us, that she wanted to -- she wanted us to know that she was with us a hundred percent and understood everything we were saying and appreciated it.
Giffords’ Doctor Notes the Impact of their Friendship
Wasserman Schultz said that she was talking to Giffords about going out for pizza again soon and taking a vacation to New Hampshire. She said Giffords doctor, Dr. Michael Lemole, told them what a breakthrough this was and that he said “on TV, I’ve discounted emotion being -- and friendship and family -- really, I’ve sort of discounted that as meaningless out loud. He said, I just witnessed the impact of friendship and what you guys -- he said, you did this here today.”
The two members of Congress talked about the bond between the young congresswoman, which extended beyond the committee rooms and House floor.
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: I always wanted to get our husbands together because a lot of -- some of the women don’t have their husbands in D.C., and so -- and as you know, Gabby’s husband is an astronaut so he travels all the time. So we always talk about, we got to double date, double date, double date. So we started to do these double dates and her husband is one of the most charming men in the world. He’s not only brilliant and fascinating and an astronaut, but he’s a nice person and they love each other so clearly.
And what they seem to enjoy most about each other as a couple is how interesting each other -- each of the other one is. And so they take their New Years and they go to the renaissance weekend and they were telling me all about their New Years and the different speakers. And both of them were like finishing each other’s sentences.