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Arizona delegates celebrate Giffords’ appearance, recovery

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – John Goodie of Mesa shot to his feet along with the rest of Arizona’s delegation when former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appeared on stage Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.

“It was very emotional just to see her walk,” Goodie said.

The moment, as Giffords uttered the Pledge of Allegiance clearly and enthusiastically, ended a long wait for Arizona delegates. They learned about the appearance that morning and had expected Giffords to show up three hours before she did.

Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, called it a proud moment for Arizona.

“It’s nice to have Gaby as a recognition,” he said. “As a state, it shows a good sign for Arizona.”

“We are very thankful and appreciative to have her here,” said Luis Heredia, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party.

Giffords was shot in the head in January 2011 during a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson. Six people were killed and many others were wounded by Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty last month.

Giffords resigned from Congress nine months ago, saying she wanted to focus on her recovery. She recently moved back from Houston to Tucson with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Thursday evening, she walked in halting steps, escorted by Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a close friend and also is Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

Megan McPherson, a 27-year-old delegate from Phoenix, said Giffords’ recovery is an inspiration.

“It was so amazing and it was a privilege to be here to witness it,” she said.

Zeke Gebrekidane, a delegate and Tucson activist, said the energy within the delegation when Giffords’ walked on stage was unbelievable.

“We just love her pride and spirit,” he said. “Arizona is fully represented with Gaby Giffords.”