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Behind the Interview: Savannah Guthrie on her hometown connection with Gabby Giffords

Savannah Guthrie talks about her personal connection to former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her recovery from a near-fatal shooting.
/ Source: TODAY

When Savannah Guthrie sat down with Gabby Giffords last year on the third anniversary of the shooting that left the former Arizona congresswoman gravely injured, the story hit close to home.

Guthrie grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords was critically injured by a gunshot from Jared Loughner, who has since been sentenced to life in prison, while meeting constituents in a supermarket parking lot on Jan. 8, 2011.

Giffords, 45, had to relearn how to speak, write, walk and talk, and she wanted to celebrate her recovery by going skydiving before her interview with Guthrie on Jan. 8, 2014.

Speaking to for our "Behind the Interview" series, Guthrie recalled how much the story connected with her roots.

Her mother even shopped in the same Safeway where Giffords was shot.

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"I think the fact that I had this personal connection to the place and just felt so viscerally the shock of what happened because it happened in my hometown and my neighborhood, (it) made the story much more personal,'' Guthrie said.

Giffords asked Guthrie if she wanted to skydive with her, but she declined.

While Guthrie joked that she is "completely afraid" of skydiving, the real reason was one that was not known publicly at the time.

Guthrie was six weeks pregnant with her daughter, Vale, who was born on Aug. 13, 2014, so there was no way she was going to be jumping out of an airplane.

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As for Giffords, it was a day to mark how she had recovered from the terror of 2011 to rebuild her life. She and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, have become gun control advocates since her shooting.

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"This whole interview and this whole experience of Gabby deciding on Jan. 8, the day she was shot, to jump out of an airplane, was all about reclaiming that day and creating a new memory, and a better memory, and a memory that's about courage and going forward,'' Guthrie said.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.