I was moved to tears today on the elliptical. No, it had nothing to do with that cursed machine, though I’ve been close to tears on it many times. Today, instead of daydreaming about my next novel, I tuned in to the newscast on the nearest television. This is the day Representative Gabrielle Giffords left the University Medical Center in Tucson. Thirteen days after a failed assassination attempt, she left the hospital. She’s far from recovered, but, and this is where the romance author in me comes out—she was moved to a hospital closer to her husband’s home.
I can relate to her long distance marriage. I have one of those too, but hers reads like the cheesiest (my favorite kind) of romance novel. The Congresswoman and the Astronaut. Even network news couldn’t resist that title. Congresswoman Giffords lives in Arizona and Washington D.C. Her astronaut husband and her step-daughters live in Houston. There isn’t a romance writer on the planet who isn’t kicking themselves for not coming up with that scenario sooner! No doubt, several manuscripts are in the works right now with a similar hero and heroine.
But this is more than a romance novel. It’s a real life drama that involves the entire nation. Thirteen days ago we were shocked when a man turned a gun on a gathering of citizens exercising their right to speak to their Congressional Representative. That representative was doing what was she was elected to do—listen to her constituents. By all accounts, Congresswoman Giffords did this on a regular basis, and with an open mind to hear what they had to say. No matter what side of the political fence you sit on, you have to admire that kind of dedication to the job.
It’s been almost two weeks since the tragedy, and the memorials continue to grow for the other victims, many of whom died on that fateful day. I’ve been touched by the memorials, but they grew out of the community’s grief. I understand that. It’s natural to mourn the loss of life, especially when it ends so abruptly and in a manner we can’t fathom.
What moved me to tears today was a different kind of emotional outpouring. Today, a cavalcade of vehicles escorted Congresswoman Giffords from the hospital to the plane waiting to take her to Houston. A group of motorcyclists from the local VFW led the way, along with a police and fire escort. The ambulance proceeded slowly, respectfully, taking tender care of the precious cargo. From a helicopter vantage point, I witnessed something that made me proud to be an American. People lined the route, some held signs or waved American flags. Others cheered, waved or applauded. Some stood in solemn respect as Congresswoman Giffords took a figurative giant step in her recovery. They were there because they wanted Congresswoman Giffords to know they respect her dedication to public service. They were there because they believe in miracles, and because they needed to celebrate triumph over tragedy. They were there to celebrate the invincible American Spirit.
I couldn’t see what was going on inside the ambulance, but I can imagine her husband by her side, holding her hand as he has for countless hours, witness to this demonstration of American Spirit. Perhaps he was describing it to her, or tucking it away to tell her about when she’s ready to hear it. It’s a love story between two extraordinary Americans, and a love story between Americans and America.
Today I’m grateful for American heroes. They come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnic backgrounds. They serve our country in many ways. Some serve in uniform, others in local, state or national office. Some pursue scientific knowledge. Some wear a badge or a stethoscope; wield a gavel, a scalpel or a textbook. What they all have in common is a love of the American people and the American ideal. Congresswoman Giffords is an American hero.
All romance novels end with a HEA—Happily Ever After. For many involved in this tragedy, there will be no HEA, but for this extraordinary couple, I hope today was one more step toward the larger than life happy ending they deserve.