Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Congresswoman who has emerged as a symbol of courage and endurance in the 12 months since she was shot in the head while meeting her constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson, surprised her supporters yesterday by announcing that she is giving up her seat.
As Ms Giffords appeared to make strong progress recovering from the assassination attempt in January last year, which left six dead and 13 wounded, some leaders in the Democratic Party were nurturing the hope that she might even run for a US Senate seat in Arizona being vacated later this year by Republican Jon Kyl.
In a touching video posted on YouTube, Ms Giffords revealed that she was stepping down to devote herself to her recovery. It means that a special election must now be held in her Tucson district to replace her until nationwide elections in November.
"I don't remember much from that horrible day," Ms Giffords says on her video message. But she said she had decided it was time "to do what is best for Arizona. I will step down this week."