Tucson: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise return to the Tucson grocery store where she was wounded in a deadly mass shooting on January 08 last year, as the city braced on Saturday for the event`s somber anniversary.
A gunman toting a semiautomatic pistol pumped bullet after bullet into the crowd gathered for a congressional outreach meeting outside the Safeway store in northwest Tucson almost a year ago.
Giffords, who has been in rehabilitation in Houston for a gunshot through her head, returned to the store on Saturday evening. She was accompanied by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, her office said.
"Gabby just visited the Safeway for the 1st time since 1/8/11," Kelly tweeted.
"It`s been a tough year, but we`re lucky to have so many people standing w/us," he added.
Giffords has only visited the southwest city four times since the deadly shooting spree last year that killed six people and wounded her and 12 others.
In another unannounced visit earlier in the day, Giffords hiked outside Tucson on a desert trail named for her slain aide Gabe Zimmerman, her office said, stopping briefly to talk to hikers.
The unannounced visits on Saturday came as survivors and residents of this close-knit city came together for walks, story-telling sessions and outdoor festivals ahead of the anniversary of the shooting on Sunday.
"The closer we get to Sunday, the more emotional it gets," said Bill Badger, a retired Army colonel hailed as a hero for tackling accused gunman Jared Loughner to the ground as he attempted to reload.
A few hundred people swayed to a steel band at Reid Park in central Tucson, at an upbeat music festival attended by Zimmerman`s father, Ross.
"I`m finding this a really positive, uplifting day," Zimmerman said.