Giffords to visit hometown of Tucson this weekend

This most recent photo of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords since she was shot, was posted to her public Facebook page by her aides Sunday morning June 12, 2011. Giffords could be released from a rehabilitation hospital in Houston sometime this month, a top aide says, offering the latest indication that the Arizona congresswoman is making progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. Woman in background is unidentified. (AP Photo/Giffords Campaign - P.K. Weis)

June 17, 2011 9:03:23 PM PDT
Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was back in her hometown Friday, visiting Tucson for Father's Day weekend in her first time back to her hometown since she was shot in January.

"We've been dreaming of this trip for some time," Giffords' astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, said in a news release. "Gabby misses Tucson very much and her doctors have said that returning to her hometown could play an important role in her recovery."

Kelly said the trip "is sure to be very emotional" and hopes the news media respects their privacy.

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the Democratic congresswoman traveled by private plane from Houston to Tucson with Kelly and one of his daughters and she'll spend Father's Day weekend with her family.

According to a Twitter posting from her staff, Giffords' plane landed in Tucson on Friday evening.

"Wheels down Tucson. Gabrielle & Mark looking forward to a beautiful weekend," the tweet said.

Giffords was released from a Houston hospital Wednesday, five months after being shot in the head during a Tucson political event. She had been in the rehab facility since late January, a few weeks after the shooting that killed six and wounded 13.

Giffords will make no public appearances and will grant no interviews during her visit to Tucson, according to Karamargin.

He said Giffords often speaks of Tucson and has said repeatedly, "I want to go home."

"Going home has been something that's been right at the top of her list," Karamargin said. "She is a child of the desert. This is where her heart is. There is no doubt that this will provide a boost in her recovery."

She has left Houston twice since she arrived there in January, first in late April for Kelly's space shuttle launch. When the launch was scrubbed for mechanical reasons, she returned to Florida again for the successful May 16 launch.

Giffords is now living in Kelly's home in League City, a town 26 miles south of Houston. She will continue outpatient therapy at the same hospital where she underwent rehabilitation.

Giffords, who was shot in the left side of her head and has been struggling to relearn how to speak and walk, will be assisted by a 24-hour home health provider, according to a statement from the hospital.