PHOENIX — When Ron Barber heard that a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a baseball game, he was taken back to when he was lying on a gurney, yelling his wife’s name and phone number.
Pam Simon remembers being on the ground unable to move after a bullet went through her wrist and into her chest.
The attack Wednesday in Virginia that left Rep. Steve Scalise in critical condition brought back painful memories for survivors of another shooting involving a member of Congress, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in Tucson, Arizona, six years ago.
“It obviously floods back all the memories from Jan. 8,” Simon said. “It really brings it back. You have PTSD symptoms that kind of flare up in things like this.”
Giffords was holding a constituent event outside a grocery store in 2011 when gunman Jared Loughner shot and killed six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords was shot in the head.
Wednesday’s shooting happened in a similarly public place — a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia. Scalise and other Republican lawmakers were practicing for a charity game when James T. Hodgkinson started shooting and chaos erupted.
Hodgkinson, who had a long history of lashing out at Republicans, was shot and killed by police.
Loughner, who is serving life in prison, had posted several online ramblings about politics before he shot Giffords, a Democrat, though no clear motive emerged.
Giffords, who now advocates for tighter gun laws through a political action committee she founded with her husband, Mark Kelly, said she was heartbroken.
“I woke up Wednesday morning to images I have prayed I would never see again: a member of Congress and a congressional aide, shot,” Giffords said in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday. “As my fellow lawmakers had been when I was shot outside a supermarket in Tucson six years ago, I was glued to the television, texting former colleagues and dear friends anxiously and offering my prayers as I awaited news.”
Barber, who took over Giffords’ seat in Congress before narrowly losing a re-election bid in 2014, said the recent shooting was a reminder of how low political discourse has fallen.
“The vitriol, the harsh rhetoric, the personal attacks, they have escalated to a point where I hardly recognize our political process anymore. We have to stop this,” Barber said.
For others, it prompted strong feelings about keeping weapons out of the hands of the wrong people.
“This isn’t a political issue nor was the one in Tucson,” said Ken Dorushka, who was shot as he shielded his wife from Loughner. “Anybody who would willingly take a gun and shoot somebody is unstable regardless of their political bent.”
Six years ago, Jeff Flake rushed from Phoenix to the hospital in Tucson when he heard Giffords was shot. On Wednesday, the Republican senator from Arizona was at the baseball practice and tended to Scalise.
Flake said during an interview with CBS “This Morning” that he reached out to Giffords and Kelly.
“Those of us in Arizona remember well that situation a few years ago. So, I sure hope that this (brings) more unity, we need it around here,” Flake said.
Simon, who was shot in 2011, said days like Wednesday don’t feel normal because she gets a lot of calls from friends and reporters.
She said she works through the difficult memories by getting together with loved ones and speaking about being positive and encouraging other survivors.
“The physical wounds fade, but clearly the emotional ones are there,” she said.