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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Watch Saratoga's Pia Carusone: Sky's the limit for Gabrielle Giffords and astronaut husband Mark Kelly

I was about to rush out the door to get to the office to do Monday morning’s payroll paperwork. Yes, we actually get paid for this labor of love ... if I get the paperwork in on time. But when I realized the launch of Endeavor, the last of the U.S. space shuttles, was minutes away, I stayed put and clicked on the TV.

I wanted to watch, to hold my breath and to say the silent Hebrew prayer that I also use on takeoffs and landings when I’m on a flight, in coach. It was a hold-your-breath moment not because it was the last shuttle launch and not because Ballston Spa schoolchildren had a stake in the mission (though that does add to the excitement), but because it was commanded by Mark Kelly, the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

You just have to root for her. You have to.

Saratoga Springs native Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, was all over the news this morning as her spokeswoman. She told NBC's Today show that the congresswoman was "really excited" to see Kelly blast off and was "obviously happy she was able to make it."

"It's a good day for everyone here," Carusone said in the interview.

Giffords and Kelly traded their wedding rings for the mission, and all six of Endeavour's astronauts are carrying "Peace-Love-Gabby" bracelets in Giffords' honor. “She’s wearing one herself,” Carusone said, adding that bracelets are something all of their family, friends and staff have taken part in.

Giffords was shot in the head in January at a meet-and-greet event for constituents. Carusone said she is progressing medically and in rehab. She was expected to return to Houston this afternoon to continue rehab, according to CNN. “She is doing very well,” Carusone said in her Today show interview.

But she still has a long road ahead. So we’ll just keep rooting.