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Reporter's Notebook: Remembering the Tragedy in Tucson

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    Mark Kelly with Fox News' Casey Stegall.Fox News

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As a journalist, we have the responsibility of covering a wide array of events -- from uplifting moments in history to horrific tragedies. I've personally been sent to my fair share of disasters throughout the years, but none have quite touched me like the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona. 

I was on vacation, sitting in my mother's living room in Indiana, when my BlackBerry started going crazy with word of an assassination attempt on a Congresswoman and multiple others being shot outside of a supermarket. Before I knew it, I was on a plane and heading to join my other Fox News colleagues in Arizona to help tell this story to our viewers around the world.

The first day I arrived was for the funeral of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of this senseless shooting. She was an exceptional young girl who wanted to attend Giffords' "Congress on your Corner" event because she was interested in politics and wanted to meet her elected leader. Seeing hundreds of people from the community, some dressed as angels, in all white, lined up outside the church for Christina's funeral is an image I will never forget. It still brings me to tears. 

The next day, our assignment was the funeral of a federal judge who lost his life that day, 63-year-old John Roll. It was very much a similar scene outside of the same church where little Christina was remembered less than 24 hours before. 

We covered four more funerals in the days that followed, recounting stories like the one of 76-year-old Dorothy Morris. She attended the event with her husband George and when he heard the gunshots, he tried to shield her with his own body, but was unsuccessful in saving her. George survived but was also wounded while trying to protect the love of his life. 

Gabe Zimmerman was just 30 years old, a staff member in the Congresswoman's office and was in the middle of planning his wedding. 

79-year-old Phyllis Schneck was active in her church. 

Dorwin Stoddard, 76, was there with his wife and he also shielded her with his own body. 

The tales just pulled at my emotional heart strings like they had never been pulled before.

Once the funerals had passed, we sat outside of University Medical Center where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was fighting for her life inside. While updating our viewers on every surgery and each little bit of progress, I watched thousands of people drop off flowers, cards and balloons at the growing shrine on the hospital lawn. My producer Jennifer Girdon and I talked to people who had driven hundreds of miles because they were so touched by the story, they felt compelled to stop by and pay their respects. 

Many of our briefings on Giffords' condition came from her amazing team of doctors, but we also started getting information from Gabby's husband, Mark Kelly. Kelly may have been an accomplished astronaut and was slated to command the final mission of the Space Shuttle "Endeavour," but he wasn't really a household name prior to this shooting. It didn't take long for Americans to feel like they knew Mark Kelly because of his media appearances where he showed us the unwavering support for his wife.

Just 13 days after the Congresswoman was shot in the head, she was stable enough to be transferred from the hospital in Tucson to a rehabilitation center in Houston, Texas. Our Fox News team responsible for that part of the country was assigned to her recovery while we stayed behind in Arizona to cover the accused gunman's court proceedings. 

It was eventually time for us to return home to Los Angeles and begin working on other stories, but I still followed every bit of news pertaining to the shooting and Giffords' remarkable progress. I've never felt so attached to a story before because of the magnitude of this particular one and living the emotional roller coaster for weeks.

I'm back in Tucson this weekend to cover the one year anniversary of the shooting and all of the same emotions and feelings are resurfacing. 

When we pulled into the Safeway supermarket parking lot for the first time, I got chills from head to toe. It was difficult to comprehend that a full year had passed since this tragic event. 

A permanent memorial now sits where the shooting happened and we've seen dozens of people filing through to see it for themselves. As I watch them wiping their tears, lighting candles and saying prayers, I am filled with a sense of pride to see this community once again taking time out of their busy lives to remember and pay homage to those whose lives were cut tragically short here.

The biggest moment for me in preparing for our live reports today was getting the chance to sit down with Mark Kelly. He met us at the Congresswoman's office last night where I had the privilege of reflecting on the last year with him: the challenges, the triumphs and how he and Gabby planned to approach this day. 

This was truly a full-circle moment for me after being so entrenched in the story for 12 months and then having an opportunity to interview him. What resonated with me most during our discussion was how he said today was not about Gabby, rather the six people who lost their lives. He called them heroes because they all died while doing something this country's foundation is built on: participating in our democracy.

I'm humbled to have met Mark Kelly. I'm humbled to be here covering this story again. I'm humbled by the strength of the people who make up this great country.

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