US Rep. Castor speaks about AZ tragedy and shooting of colleague Gabrielle Giffords listen01/10/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Two days after the Arizona shooting that killed six and wounded twelve, including Democratic US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, officials and the media are trying to make sense of what happened. One Tampa Bay area member of Congress took a moment from her first scheduled appearance since the massacre to reflect on her colleague and the political climate many believe spawned the tragedy.
As US Representative Gabrielle Giffords lies in an Arizona hospital bed wounded from a pointblank gunshot to the head, pundits are trying to assign meaning to Saturday’s violence. Today, US Representative Kathy Castor, who holds similar views as Giffords on issues like health care reform, called her a dedicated public servant.
"Congresswoman Giffords is a wonderful person. She is such an outgoing model Member of Congress, just someone that has worked hard every day for her constituents."
Castor said she and Giffords flew back to their respective districts Friday evening, and that Giffords was out among constituents first thing the next morning.
"Congresswoman Giffords got back to Tucson, Arizona probably late at night on Friday evening but she was out first thing in the morning, out meeting with her constituents at the local grocery store where she had "Congress On Your Corner". I just wanted to make the point that she is such a wonderful person and we just pray for her speedy recovery."
Giffords was holding an event outside a local grocery store when a man opened fire on the gathering. Police have charged twenty-two year old Jared Loughner on counts that included attempted assassination on a member of Congress. Many believe the act was inspired by increasingly violent tone of political discourse in the US. Castor said it’s time to be civil.
"We've got to improve the civil discourse throughout this great country and in our communities. We have to share with others that this inflamed political rhetoric is wrong and we need to call it out."
Her comments come after the media noted that Representative Giffords had become a target of tea party activists. At a 2009 event similar to the one scheduled for Saturday, a man waving a sign that read “Don’t Tread on Me” reportedly dropped a pistol on the ground. After Giffords voted for health care reform in March, a protester shattered a window at her district office. Today at an event to highlight Earned Income Tax Credit, Castor stressed the importance of bipartisanship, and praised local officials for being able to look past political differences.
"We really try to, in this community, all work together, never let the political rhetoric get so heated that we lose sight of what's important and that's working for the people: small businesses, and families, and retirees throughout our community."
Castor is no stranger to the volatile political climate that has been brewing over the past two years. In the summer of 2009 she held a town hall meeting in Ybor City on health care reform. The meeting erupted into shouting and shoving, and Castor left early, reportedly at the suggestion of state representative Betty Reed. Castor did not indicate whether she would boost her own security, but said anyone in public service needs to be careful.
"I think everyone has to be aware, if you're in public service or you're a teacher in the classroom, or you're a nurse in the hospital."
Meanwhile, doctors say Representative Giffords remains in critical condition after a brain surgery. They say she's stable and is responsive to doctors. Among the six killed in Saturday’s rampage were a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.