Mark Kelly Shares Personal Experiences in Overcoming Tragedy

Updated: 10/15/2012 10:52 PM By: Naomi Pescovitz

In the past two years, Mark Kelly has lived through life's extreme highs and lows.

The astronaut commanded space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in May of 2011, before announcing his retirement from NASA in June of last year. He is also husband to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived after being shot in the head during an assasination attempt on January 8th, 2011. Six others were killed.

This weekend, Kelly shared his life lessons in the Twin Cities. On Saturday, he spoke at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The topic was "Coming Together as a Nation and a Community."

It has been more than a year and a half since the day tragedy hit Kelly, Giffords and Tucson, Arizona. In the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood of Minneapolis, it has been less than three weeks since a fired employee started shooting inside Accent Signage Systems, Inc. Seven people died, including the gunman.

In some ways, Kelly explains, the pain will never go away.

"How do we recover from something like that?" we asked Kelly.

"It's a hard thing to do, people that are impacted by such violence. It takes a long time to figure it out, maybe you never do," Kelly said.

The shooting at Accent Signage was not the only act of mass gun violence since the day Giffords was shot. In July of this year, a gunman killed 12 people in an Aurora Colorado movie theater. In August, there was a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Seven people died, including the gunman.

"These things seem to happen all over the place and way too frequently. Hopefully it will be addressed at the local and national level to see, why do we continue to do this," Kelly said.

We asked Kelly if he believes these incidents are preventable.

"I think maybe some of them are. Certainly. Not all of them," Kelly said. "People that are that disturbed and psychotic tend to act out in very unpredictable ways but I think in some cases maybe if people get the right help at the right time, I think some of these could be preventable."

"I think we can fix anything. We just have to have the will to do it," Kelly said. "We've got to have people that are willing to work together to make things happen. Right now we've got a Congress that is pretty paralyzed because most of the moderate members of Congress are god."

In Tucson this January, the community united for a one year remembrance, honoring the victims of the shooting. Kelly said he believes events like that are important for recovery.

"When something horrible happens, it's a natural process for people to kind of band together and try to fight back in a way from this horrible thing... try to support each other and try to take something that's negative and turn it into a positive. Gabby and I talk about that a lot," Kelly said.

Kelly recently moved back to Tucson with Giffords where he says her recovery is going well. He highlighted the Democratic National Convention in September, when Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance.

"People in the audience were really excited about seeing her. But the person who got the most out of that, I think, was Gabby," Kelly said. 

Kelly says Giffords' goal is to get back to work someday. He believes it is possible she may eventually get back to elected office.

"She's working hard. It's a painful process to go through. Very frustrating, a lot of hard work, not what she would chose to be doing. But that's the only option," Kelly said.