By: FOX News Radio's Jessica Rosenthal in Tucson, Arizona
You might think a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Tucson shooting massacre would be somber, and tearful. And it was at times, but there were also smiles, cheers, and applause.
One year later, the people who bundled up on a cold evening to reflect and remember, found strength in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' presence, and her remarkable recovery.
19 candles flickered on stage at the University of Arizona to remember the six victims who died and 13 others who were injured on that fateful day. The crowd clutched glow sticks that looked like hundreds of fireflies dancing in the desert night. It was beautiful.
Congresswoman Giffords led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. The right side of her body doesn't function as well so she had to use her left hand to hold her right one over her heart. And when she did speak, she sounded almost childlike, punching each word of the pledge deliberately.
At the end of the vigil people started to chant her name, "Gabby, Gabby, Gabby!" It almost sounded like a campaign rally. But no one talked about politics here.
Watch VIDEO of Congresswoman Giffords reciting the Pledge of Allegiance HERE:
There were other kinds of emotions expressed though too. I came across an article about a man who didn't attend the memorial. George Morris lost his wife Dorothy in the shooting. The self-described ultra-conservative told the Arizona Republic that every time he sees Giffords or her husband Mark Kelly on TV, it quote "makes him want to vomit." In fact, he blames Kelly in part for the shooting, saying that if his wife were a Congresswoman who faced threats, he would've had more security surrounding her.
I approached one man who had been seated up close in during the vigil. He said he was honored to be there, but his bright blue eyes started to glisten with tears when he recalled how he knew the Congresswoman. "She babysat for our kids when she was just a teenager, she lived next door. " When I asked what she was like when she was younger he smiled and said "oh, just a normal teenager."
A woman who sang in the choir and sat very close to the Congresswoman throughout the vigil said it was amazing to hear this woman who was shot in the head a year ago now giggle at the speakers she knew and loved.
After the ceremony, I got up close to the stage to snap a few pictures. In one of them, Giffords looked straight at me as she gripped the railing of the stair case and eased herself down. All I could think of was how shocked I was when nearly a year ago we heard that the Congresswoman was walking. Walking! And now she's going down a staircase without any assistance. Her Doctors say there's no telling how much more progress she'll make, but they continue to call her recovery "miraculous."
For one hour that night in the cold desert, it was easy to feel warm.
Listen HERE to some of Jessica Rosenthal's reporting from Tucson, AZ: