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Gabrielle Giffords Attending Space Shuttle Launch Stirs Excitement

AP/The Huffington Post Posted: 04/29/11 09:30 AM ET

When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords watches her astronaut husband get launched into space on Friday, two of her staff members who also survived the Tucson mass shooting will be there, too, thinking about how far they’ve all come in less than four months.

Ron Barber and Pam Simon traveled to Florida from Tucson on Thursday with family and other staff members of Giffords to watch the space shuttle launch. They both spoke with The Associated Press shortly after landing.

“This just really makes you think about the human spirit, and our determination to go into space as a nation I think parallels Gabby’s determination to get well,” said Simon, a community outreach coordinator for Giffords who survived after a bullet hit her in the chest and exited her hip.

“It is incredibly meaningful,” said Simon, 63. “Knowing that Gabby is here and watching her husband go to space and that she wanted to be here so bad, and he wanted her to be here – for me, what a journey from being flat on the pavement the day of the shooting to be here to celebrate. It gives me a lot of hope.”

Simon said watching Mark Kelly’s last shuttle lift-off in 2008 was emotional and she expects it to be even more so this time around.

“I had a huge lump in my throat last time, and I expect alligator-(sized) tears this time,” she said.

Barber, who is Giffords’ district director, was shot in the face and thigh during the shooting. He will attend the launch even though he’s been having nightmares about the day of the shooting and experiencing extreme pain in his leg.

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