Gabrielle Giffords, left, who was shot in January, is pictured with her mother Gloria after months in recovery.
Gabrielle Giffords, left, who was shot in January, is pictured with her mother Gloria after months in recovery.

Story highlights

NEW: Giffords doesn't remember the shooting, she says

NEW: Giffords felt like a "zombie" on the flight to Houston

NEW: Her neurosurgeon describes the stunning recovery to CNN

Jared Loughner is charged with wounding her and 12 others and killing six

CNN —  

Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in January, appeared in her first television interview late Monday night, clearly understanding the questions put to her but able to respond only in simple words.

“I cried,” she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in response to a question about how she felt when her husband told her what had happened.

“Died,” she said.

“Sad,” said her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

“Sad,” Giffords agreed. “I cried. A lot of people died.”

She said she has no memory of the incident.

“That day is gone?” Sawyer asked.

“Gone,” Giffords replied.

Giffords also doesn’t remember the next 13 days at a hospital in Tucson before she was flown to Houston. She said she remembers the flight “a little bit.”

“She said she felt like a –” Kelly said.

“A zombie,” Giffords said, finishing the sentence.

Giffords also said she never got angry about what happened.

“No,” she said. “No. No. No.”

She paused.

“Life,” she said, then shrugged. “Life.”

Jared Loughner, 23, is accused of wounding Giffords and 12 others and killing six people in the shooting at a meet-and-greet event for the congresswoman outside a Tucson, Arizona, shopping center.

Giffords, a Democrat, posted an audio message to her constituents Tuesday on her Facebook page, saying she missed them and Tuscon: “The mountains, the blue skies, even the heat.

“I’m getting stronger, I’m getting better,” she says, adding that she wants to go back to work.

She sat with her husband on a couch for the ABC interview, wearing a lime green jacket. She wore her hair short and smiled often.

When Sawyer asked Giffords how she feels, the congresswoman responded, “Pretty good.”

Sawyer asked Giffords if it was painful to move her right arm. Giffords said it was not.

“Difficult,” she said twice, then grinned and swung her left arm.

“Strong!” she said, getting a laugh from Sawyer. “Strong, strong!”

Giffords was shot in the head, with the bullet passing through the left side of her brain, which controls the right half of the body.

Her right arm lay unused on her lap during the interview.

But before the interview began, she leaned over to fix Sawyer’s hair with her left hand.

Giffords has made what doctors call a miraculous recovery since the shooting.

Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Dong Kim, told CNN Tuesday that Giffords’ thought process is normal – a remarkable feat for someone with the kind of injuries she suffered.

As a sign of her stunning recovery, Kim told CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen that Giffords recently spoke two sentences in a row to him. “Wow, you have a suit on today,” she said to him when he walked in to see her. Then she added, “What’s with the necktie?”

The ABC report showed Giffords in therapy, struggling to come up with a word when asked what she would use to tell time.

“W….,” the therapist prompts.

“Wwwwwwatch!” Giffords says, to the delight of the therapist.

She and Kelly told Sawyer she did two hours of therapy a day in their home.

Giffords has clearly retained a sense of humor; her husband teases her when Sawyer asks what she loves by interjecting: “Football! Gabby loves the NFL.”

“No, no, no,” she giggles. “Stinks!”

Loughner is in mental health treatment and will be re-evaluated early next year to determine his competency to stand trial.