In the early days at TIRR, nurse Poteet says, Giffords said something else: “What is happening to me?” – a phrase she repeated over and over.

It was a good phrase, doctors told the usual crew of family, friends and staffers gathered in Giffords’ room. It meant she had become aware of herself and of her limitations.

There were hopeful language signs even on the March day that Giffords learned about the people killed on Jan. 8. She had been told there were more bullets, Kelly says, but she didn’t yet know that there were deaths. He was reading aloud to her from the New York Times – a story about Giffords herself. She followed with her eyes over his shoulder, noticed that he skipped a paragraph, and grabbed the paper out of his hand. He hadn’t realized how well she could read.

The paragraph told of six dead, many more wounded. Kelly comforted Giffords while she cried. Her grief spread over days and weeks.

“So many people, so many people,” Giffords repeated.