Obama visits wounded Congresswoman

10:35, January 13, 2011      

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U.S. President Barack Obama began his solemn trip to Tucson, Arizona Wednesday afternoon, with a visit to wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other victims in last Saturday's shooting rampage.

Obama spent nine minutes with Giffords and her husband at the University Medical Center, said officials accompanying the president.

"The president wanted to begin this solemn trip by stopping first at the hospital where Congresswoman Giffords and others continue to recuperate," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Gibbs said the president and First Lady Michelle Obama also will meet with families of the victims at McKale Center before attending a memorial service Wednesday night on the University of Arizona campus.

The president will address the memorial service for the six killed and 14 wounded by a gunman who opened fire while Giffords met voters last Saturday, according to the White House.

"The president will devote a significant portion of his remarks to the memory of the victims," a senior White House official told The Arizona Republic daily. "He'll also reflect on how all of us might best honor their memory in our own lives."

In his speech, Obama was expected to call on Americans to unite regardless of political divisions and offer comfort to the families of the victims, said the official, who was not identified.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy also are accompanying Obama on his trip.

Giffords remained in critical condition as of Wednesday, four days after being shot in the head in Tucson, Arizona, doctors said.

Doctors cautioned that Giffords is still in a dangerous phase of her recovery because of brain swelling, but they expect she will be in much better shape as early as Friday.

Giffords is recovering well and making small movements on her own as doctors ease sedation, indicating progress was "going as anticipated," University Medical Center Trauma Director Dr. Peter Rhee said.

Rhee said that Giffords' recovery can proceed very slowly or could "spiral downward."

"None of the downward events has occurred at this time, which is what we want," he said.

Other than Giffords, five patients remain in the hospital with three listed in serious condition and two in fair condition.

The motive for the killing remains unknown as the 22-year-old gunman Jared Loughner refused to cooperate with authorities since his arrest after the shooting.

Source: Xinhua
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