“Today, we are called here to mourn. An unspeakable act of violence has taken six innocent lives, and left several more – including our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords – battling for theirs. These are difficult hours for our country.
“Among the fallen is Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff … a public servant of the highest caliber … one of our own.
“Even in our shock, we are composed and determined to fulfill our calling to represent our constituents. This is the great cause for which Gabe gave his life. Like us, Gabe swore on oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. At the time of the attack, he was engaged in the most simple and direct of democratic rituals: listening to the people … to his neighbors.
“The brutality that shattered Saturday morning’s calm was devastating, but brief. Bravery and quick thinking prevented a massacre, turning innocent bystanders into heroes. The service and skill of first responders and medical professionals saved lives. Law enforcement officials are working to ensure swift justice. Look to Tucson right now, and you will be reminded that America’s most plentiful source of wealth and strength is her people.
“We are so thankful Gabby is still with us. We are so thankful that two of her staffers who were also wounded – Ron Barber and Pam Simon – are still with us. These are days they were not supposed to see, and we can only pray there will be more of them.
“In her stead, Gabby’s staff has pressed on, opening for business Monday morning, right on schedule. The men and women who faithfully serve the people of Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District have signaled that no act – no matter how heinous – will stop us from doing our duty and being among the people we serve.
“To all of the dedicated professionals we rely on to make this institution work, to each of you: thank you for what you do. To Gabby’s staff – and their families: please know that our hearts and prayers go out to you.
“This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy. We feel a litany of unwanted emotions no resolution could possibly capture. We know that we gather here without distinction of party. The needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship. And what this institution needs right now is strength – holy, uplifting strength. The strength to grieve with the families of the fallen, to pray for the wounded, and to chart a way forward, no matter how painful and difficult it may be.
“Today it is not ceremony, but tragedy that stirs us to renew our commitment to fulfill our oaths of office. Let us not let this inhuman act frighten us into doing otherwise. The free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of our democracy, as prescribed by the First Amendment, that beacon of free expression Congresswoman Giffords recited in this well just days ago. These rights have not been handed down by dictate – they have been preserved and protect through generations of hard sacrifice and commitment. We will continue this unfinished work.
“We will do it for Christina Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard, ordinary citizens who died participating in their democracy. We will do it for Judge John Roll. We will do it for Gabe Zimmerman. And we will do it, God-willing, with Gabrielle Giffords.
“Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not. This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy. We may not yet have all the answers, but we already have the answer that matters most: that we are Americans, and together we will make it through this. We will have the last word.
“God bless this House. God bless this Congress. God bless America.”