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Posted at 5:05 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Gabrielle Giffords staffers, volunteers carry on in face of tragedy

By Felicia Sonmez

As the House reconvened for the first time since Saturday's rampage in Tucson, staffers and volunteers in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) Washington office did what they have done since the mass shooting -- persevere in the face of tragedy.

Of the 20 or so staffers in the office, eight have remained in Washington; the others returned to Arizona following the attack. Those currently in Washington are expected to travel to Tucson for Wednesday's memorial service and may stay in Arizona through the weekend for a planned service for Giffords's slain community outreach director, Gabe Zimmerman.

According to a source close to the office who is not authorized to speak publicly, the decision to keep Giffords's Washington and district offices open was made by her staffers in a conference call after the shooting. The staffers decided that keeping the offices running is what their boss would want them to do.

The eight staffers remaining in the Washington office have drawn strength through remaining united, the source said; they went together to observe Monday's moment of silence on the Capitol steps and plan to attend Wednesday's service as a group.

Lawmakers and staffers from both parties have offered their support to Giffords's staff through a volunteer effort headed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-Md.) office. The bipartisan group of staffers sits in the front room of Giffords's blue-carpeted Longworth building office -- amid several vases of flowers and the office's usual trappings, including a miniature NASA space shuttle -- answering the thousands of emails that have poured in and keeping a spreadsheet of those who have offered their support and well-wishes so that the congresswoman might thank them.

Every day, a different lawmaker's office provides lunch for those working in the Giffords office. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) provided Monday's lunch; Tuesday's came courtesy of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The list of lawmakers who have signed up to provide lunch is already so long that it extends to the end of April.

Among those dropping by to pay their respects was Pelosi, who visited the office minutes after the House formally reconvened Monday afternoon.

She greeted the volunteers, then spent about 20 minutes with the Giffords staffers. As she left, Pelosi said nothing, but appeared to grief-stricken.

By Felicia Sonmez  | January 11, 2011; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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