February 3rd, 2011
11:15 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Thursday that while we may never know why she and 18 other people were shot - six fatally - it could be part of a larger plan and that good may come of it.
"What allowed me to be here today is Gabby's condition," Capt. Mark Kelly said Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast. "It continues to improve. Every day she gets a little bit better, and the neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me that that's a great sign. The slope of that curve is very important."
Giffords, 40, was among 19 people shot January 8 as she held a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. Among the dead were a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge; 13 others, including Giffords, were injured. Authorities believe Giffords, who was shot in the head, was the primary target. A suspect is facing federal charges.
Kelly, a NASA astronaut, said the past month has been the hardest time of his and his family's lives, and the shooting left both him and Giffords forever changed. It also cost other families "dearly," he said.
In its aftermath, people are left asking why, he said. "Why were six people killed? Why was a 9-year-old girl, an innocent child, killed, who just wanted to meet her congresswoman? Why was Gabby shot through her head and left barely clinging to life?"
The answers to those questions, he said, will never be known. But he said he told his wife - who is in a Houston rehabilitation hospital - earlier this week that "maybe this terrible event, maybe it was fate."
He said until recently, he had not been a big believer in fate. "I thought the world just spins and the clock just ticks and things happen for no particular reason," he said. He noted that President Lincoln was a believer in fate, and also believed that God had a purpose and a larger plan.
He said he told Giffords, "Maybe it's possible this is just one small part of that same plan." While the event was horrible and tragic, he said, "maybe something good can come of all this. Maybe it's our responsibility to see that something does."
Just before Kelly spoke, President Barack Obama mentioned Giffords in his remarks.
"We have been praying for Mark's wife, Gabby Giffords, for many days now, but I want Gabby and Mark and their entire family to know that we are with them for the long haul," Obama said.
Kelly said he has had the opportunity three times to gaze down on Earth from space, giving "an entirely different perspective of life on our planet ... Earth as God created it, in the context of God's vast universe."
He noted that his twin brother, Scott, is also an astronaut. Scott Kelly was in space when the shooting happened, and he remains there.
He recalled his brother's statement when Scott Kelly was asked by journalists how it felt to be so far away when his family was going through a difficult time. Scott Kelly said that life in space is challenging, and that those challenges are addressed through teamwork - and that he would like to see more teamwork, from government and others, in addressing challenges faced by the country, his brother said. "We're better than this," Scott Kelly said. "We must do better."
"My brother is right," Mark Kelly said. "I know we'll do better, and I know that prayer must be part of that effort."
At one point during his wife's hospitalization in Tucson, Mark Kelly said he visited an impromptu memorial set up in her honor outside the hospital. There was no wind, he said, and amid hundreds of burning candles, "it was like stepping into a church, a place with heaven itself as its ceiling."
It reminded him, he said, that a church or a mosque or a temple or an altar is not needed to pray. "You pray where you are. You pray when God is there in your heart." And prayer, Mark Kelly said, is not just asking of God - it is listening for answers and expressing gratitude - "which I've done a lot lately."
As a closing prayer, Mark Kelly offered a prayer given over Giffords' hospital bed just after the shooting by the rabbi who married the couple in 2007 - that the angel Michael watch over the right side, the angel Gabriel over the left, the angel Uriel - God's angel of light - guiding the path and the angel Raphael - the angel of healing - be behind, and overhead the presence of the Divine.
He asked participants to keep thoughts and prayers for Giffords in their hearts. "It really is helping," he said.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.