March 30, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

As if She’ll Return Any Moment

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been gone 10 weeks, but her offices must keep functioning. Legislative Director Peter Ambler and Chief of Staff Pia Carusone, her top aides, run things in her absence.

Exactly when Giffords might be ready to read those books isnt clear though in the Longworth office, its taken as an article of faith that the boss will be back. The lawmakers doctors most recent public assessment was relatively rosy: She can follow conversations, speak sometimes in full sentences and even walk with some help.

Giffords path back to Washington isnt certain, but her staffers operate as if it were, as if at any second, Giffords might just walk into the room.

Still, for all the normalcy, its difficult to forget this is a tribe for whom tragedy is still fresh. After Carusone hires the new caseworker, she calls a staffer in the Tucson office to ready a new workspace.

Not in Gabes old desk, she says into the phone. Its too soon.

And while Members of Congress have pitched in to help Giffords office on the legislative front, theyre also showing their support in more tangible ways.

Like neighbors who show sympathy in times of crises with casseroles and cookies, Members of both parties provide a daily lunch for the staff. Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) sent rotisserie chickens, and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) personally delivered pizza.

Last Friday, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) bought spaghetti and garlic bread, and the staffers gathered in the Congresswomans office to eat and banter. The room isnt sacred space left empty in Giffords absence; even before the shooting, the always-on-the-go lawmaker spent little time sequestered there, and the staff used the large room for meetings.

Still, its filled with mementos, including a particularly poignant framed photo of a rocket launch. Below the image, Giffords husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote an inscription, an artifact from a more carefree time. To my favorite Congresswoman, on and off the planet, it reads. Love Always, Mark.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

Correction: March 21, 2011

The article misstated the title of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

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