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Updated Sep 6, 2012, 8:49 pm Originally posted Sep 6, 2012, 5:15 pm
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords walked stiffly onto the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, held her right hand up to her heart, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance to open the final evening of the party gathering in Charlotte, N.C.
Giffords was accompanied by her longtime friend, Democratic chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman.
The ex-Arizona representative beamed as she loudly gave the Pledge, speaking in a clear voice but stumbling a bit on the word "indivisible." She waved and blew kisses to a crowd that chanted "Gabby! Gabby!" afterward.
Giffords resigned her office in January, to focus on her recovery after being shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011. Six were killed in an assassination attempt on Giffords, and a dozen others shot by Jared Lee Loughner - including her successor in Congress, then-aide Ron Barber.
John Goodie of Mesa shot to his feet along with the rest of Arizona's delegation when Giffords appeared on stage .
"It was very emotional just to see her walk," Goodie said.
The moment as Giffords enthusiastically uttered the Pledge of Allegiance ended a long wait for Arizona delegates. The rumored appearance was confirmed to them Thursday morning, and they had expected Giffords to show up three hours before she did.
Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, called it a proud moment for Arizona.
"It's nice to have Gaby as a recognition," he said. "As a state, it shows a good sign for Arizona."
"We are very thankful and appreciative to have her here," said Luis Heredia, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party.
Megan McPherson, a 27-year-old delegate from Phoenix, said Giffords' recovery is an inspiration.
"It was so amazing and it was a privilege to be here to witness it," she said.
Zeke Gebrekidane, a delegate and Tucson political activist, said the energy within the delegation when the former congresswoman walked on stage was unbelievable.
"We just love her pride and spirit," he said. "Arizona is fully represented with Gabby Giffords."
Cronkite New Service’s Natasha Khan contributed to this report from Charlotte, N.C.