Families Speak as Tucson Preps for Memorial

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The collection of candles and flowers grows outside the Tucson hospital where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and those wounded in the Jan 8 shooting rampage in Arizona are being treated.

Mourners will gather Tuesday night for mass to remember the six killed in the shooting. President Obama will arrive in Tucson Wednesday for a memorial service for the victims.
 
Meanwhile, Rep. Giffords's miraculous survival is being trumped by news of her amazing recovery. Doctors report that the he biggest danger to her survival, her brain swelling, has yet to happen, and she's had a big step forward.

"She's able to generate her own breaths. She's breathing on her own," Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael LeMole said. "In fact, the only reasons we keep that breathing tube in is to protect her airway, so she doesn't have complications like pneumonia."

Still, LeMole stresses that the danger for Giffords' is far from over.

"A penetrating injury through the skull: really, the survival, let alone recovery, is abysmal," he said. "She has no right to look this good and she does. We're hopeful, but I do want to underline the seriousness of this injury and the fact that we all have to be extremely patient."

Families Speak Out

Many other victims faced the suspect's gun Saturday, and on Tuesday three of their relatives' came forward to talk. Seventy-six-year-old Dorwan Stoddard died throwing his body over his wife to protect her.

"Like to compliment the hero that lie in our father. And we're just blessed that he's walking with the Lord now, but what a way to go," Stoddard's daughter-in-law Angela Robinson said. "As a hero, he lived that kind of a life."

His daughters, both present at a press conference to talk about their father in law, pointed out the Stoddards knew each other as children, but went separate ways. The found each other again 15 years ago.

"They were sixth grade girlfriend and boyfriend, and they had a wonderful, loving life together," Penny Wilson, Stoddard's daughter-in-law, said. "It was quite a blessing for them as well as the extended family."

Bill Hileman's wife Susie took 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green to the Gifford event. Both were shot. Christina died.

"The Greens very much remain in our prayers every minute," Hileman said. "They are dear, sweet friends of ours who have been, from the get-go, trying their best to take care of Susie despite the loss that they personally suffered."

He said his wife is heavily sedated but keeps talking about holding Christina's hand.

"I hear her in her semi-conscious ramblings screaming out 'Christina, Christina, let's get out of here!  Let's get out of here!'" Hileman said of his wife. "And she keeps talking about the holding of hands, and then the realization that she was on the ground and the bleeding was profuse. Her memory seems to end there."

He said Christina's dad and he talked on the phone Monday, saying they both "cried for about 10 minutes."

Planned Picketing

The controversial Westboro Baptist Church said it plans to picket the funeral of the 9-year old girl killed in the shooting.
 
In response, Arizona lawmakers passed emergency legislation to prohibit protesting at or near funeral sites. They based the legislation on a similar law in Ohio.

The Kansas-based church is known for protesting at military funerals.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.