U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords celebrated her 41st birthday yesterday. That was five months after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin in Tucson. Days after that awful shooting, I wrote about it (and later in regard to a UA Law event I did the same), and I’m always interested to see reactions to it from people outside the state.

Reports are that she is making some therapeutic progress—though that must surely be measured in tiny steps, given the severity of her injuries. But many people have felt they were celebrating alongside her as she watched her husband command the Space Shuttle Endeavour into orbit. The Tucson tragedy, and Giffords’ slow recovery, have transfixed a stunned nation.

On Wednesday, someone who had never met Giffords before did what he could to help celebrate her birthday. Jeff Koterba is a cartoonist for the Omaha (Neb.) World Herald, and he has committed himself this spring to memorializing some of the pain and sacrifice torn from victims on that sunny January morning.

One of his works depicts Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Here it is.

Later, when Koterba learned that Giffords’ friends and colleagues were planning to present her with his framed cartoon as a gift, he decided to pen his own best-birthday wishes to the U.S. Representative in the newspaper. You can read them here.

The artist had preceded that with a cartoon featuring Christina Taylor Green, the young girl who was killed that morning in Tucson. You may recall that she had been born on September 11, 2001, and so that tragic day was always an important part of her life. Koterba decided to feature that event in his cartoon about her.

Here is a news story about that cartoon. As it says:

“Koterba had known from news reports that tragedy had marked the beginning of Christina’s life, too. She was born Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t know until hearing from the family that Christina’s mom is from New York City and that one of her aunts is a firefighter.”

Finally, here is a cartoon of his from September 18, 2001.

There is plenty more to see on this talented guy’s own website. Among the items you should read is his bio, which includes this noteworthy fact:

Jeff Koterba

“Jeffrey Koterba is a writer, musician, and cartoonist. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and during the summer of 1978 was struck by lightning. By coincidence, a few weeks later he landed his first cartooning job on his high school newspaper.”

On Friday, I’ll write about another cartoonist I recently had the pleasure to meet: Nick Galifianakis. But for today, I’ll just send a happy belated birthday to Representative Giffords.