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Jan 9, 2014 5:34 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Photographer captures freefall moments of Giffords' Ariz. skydive

ELOY, Ariz. - When Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords jumped out of a plane to acknowledge the third anniversary of the shooting that killed six and injured 13 others, a local man was at the ready to capture it.

Giffords jumped out of a plane Wednesday to both grieve and celebrate life. Many consider it a landmark in her recovery though she faces many years of rehabilitation and therapy and currently has limited use of her right arm.

News 4 Tucson is getting an exclusive look at those freefall moments courtesy of Mike McGowan.

McGowan has photographed Giffords skydiving before - back in 2009 when she joined a group of Navy SEALS. He joined the group for the Jan. 8 jump as well.

"Certainly I did not want to make a mistake on this jump because it meant so much to me being able to film her coming back," McGowan told News 4 Tucson.

Jimmy Hatch, a former Navy SEAL, was her tandem partner in her first jump in 2009. He partnered up with Giffords once again for this extraordinary jump.

"I think her spirit is pretty incredible and I think you can see it in spite of the way that she can communicate now," Hatch said.

Giffords described the jump as "peaceful" as she admired the mountains and blue skies.

"The main part about Gabby is her spirit and if anything it's greater... It shines a little brighter because of what she's gone through. Gabby's come out of this stronger not weaker," McGowan said.

Giffords had to sign waivers and go through the proper training before the jump. She was also fitted for a special harness because of her limited mobility.


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