But the atmosphere was far from solemn even before that announcement, more Irish wake than dirge, with people cheering on the state's political class — McCain, O'Connor, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, former Gov. and current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano — as well as the survivors, the trauma surgeons who saved Giffords' life and other longtime Tucson and Arizona fixtures.
Since then, Arizonans, and Americans, have cheered Giffords on as she rehabbed in Houston, traveled to Florida to see her husband command the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and posted photos on Facebook.
Questions remain, though. Part of her brain is missing. Her friends and colleagues report progress and talk an optimistic game as they help her raise money for a possible re-election campaign, but that's expected.
With the simple act of voting, Giffords took control of the narrative. She's still a Member. Injured or not, recovering or not, she was there to vote — and on the most divisive and fundamental issue of the 112th Congress.
As to questions about her capacity to serve, those will remain for the foreseeable future.
Udall, were he still around, would be the first to say being partially disabled is no impediment to serving in Congress.
During his 1976 presidential campaign, the Democrat, who was blind in one eye, would frequently quip: "Handicap? I'm a one-eyed Mormon Democrat from conservative Arizona. You can't find a higher handicap than that."
It's likely Giffords is familiar with the quote.
The writer is a native Arizonan. He covered the aftermath of the shooting from Tucson, Ariz., for National Journal.