Giffords’ Riverdale friends stunned by attack

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has friends in Riverdale praying and hoping she can pull through after being shot in the head in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday. Councilman Oliver Koppell and Rep. Eliot Engel, both close with Ms. Giffords, are among them.  

When Ms. Giffords was a State Senator in Arizona, Councilman Oliver Koppell met her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. They were both attending a luncheon of the Jewish caucus.

Mr. Koppell and his wife, Lorraine, became friends with Ms. Giffords and Mr. Koppell said he threw a number of fund raisers for her in New York over the years, as she ran for higher office in Arizona. She stayed at the Councilman’s house when she was in town for a fund raiser last year. 

“She’s a lovely person. She’s just a very fine person. She’s incredibly active” Mr. Koppell said of his friend.

When Ms. Giffords was thinking about running for Congress in 2007, Mr. Koppell introduced her to Mr. Engel. Mr. Engel said he gave her advice on running a successful campaign and the two became friends. When his son attended the University of Arizona, he visited her. His son even worked for Ms. Giffords’ campaign. 

“She and I became really, really good friends. I used to joke to her that my son’s laptop had a bumper sticker of hers that was about three times the size of my bumper sticker. So I used to say, ‘Look who he cares about, Gabby? He cares more about you than he cares about me,’” Mr. Engel said.

Mr. Engel described his colleague as “the nicest person you’ll ever want to meet in your life. She is just a kind, gentle, sweet person, smart, hard working, she truly loves people, cares about people.”

On Sunday, Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents at a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona when 22-year-old Jared Laughner showed up and shot the Congresswoman and 18 other people. Six people were killed in the attack.

At the time of the incident on Sunday, Mr. Engel was at West 231st Street giving an award to Loeser’s Deli for celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

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