She arrived right on time - smiling, as Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords so often did, as she made her way through the small crowd that had assembled for her first "Congress on Your Corner" gathering of the new year. The meetings had become one of her hallmarks as a congresswoman, a way to get face-to-face with the people she served and hear them out, from those who cheered her close re-election to those who opposed her positions on health care or immigration.
Her Twitter account extended an invitation to one and all for the event at La Toscana Village, a suburban shopping center dotted with a nail salon, bakery and a Jenny Craig on the northern outskirts of Tucson: "Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind ..."
Some two dozen people did stop in, collecting out front of a Safeway store. At 10 a.m. sharp, standing near a banner adorned with her name and the U.S. House of Representatives seal, Giffords began to greet the crowd. Among them were old friends, such as John Roll, a federal judge who put off household chores to go say hello after Mass.
There was also at least one new admirer, a third-grader with ebony hair and a big smile of her own who'd been elected to her school's student council. A neighbor brought little Christina Taylor Green along, believing she'd enjoy meeting a real politician.
Off to the side, volunteer Alex Villec helped keep things running smoothly.