So much for the fairy-tale ending. A year and two weeks after she was shot in the head, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is resigning to focus on her recovery, a decision she says is best for Arizona and for her.

It sets off a mad scramble to fill her seat, and reminds us that even miracles have their limits.

If you ever believed, hoped or allowed yourself to dream that she might run again, this news felt like a punch to the gut. It's one more loss from a shooting that killed six and injured 13.

"I was surprised how sad I was," Janet Marcotte, a friend of Giffords' and executive director of the YWCA, told me. "You can sort of put a period on the end of our hopes."

There will be a special election in the spring, followed by the regularly scheduled general election in the fall.

Four different votes in a year for two differently shaped districts.

But what happens next for Roger Salzgeber?

He helped tackle Jared Lee Loughner and then kept a Giffords for Congress sign in his front yard, saying it would stay there until she returned to office.

How hard will it be to take that sign down? How hard is it to let go of that hope?

Where does Patricia Maisch, who snagged the gun magazine after Loughner was tackled, now place her political dreams for the future?

On Jan. 9, the day after the shooting, Maisch told me she thought Giffords could have been president one day.

"I always thought that she was our best hope for a first female president," she told me Sunday. "And maybe she still is; I don't know."

Like Marcotte, she was filled with sadness about the news, but wants what's best for Giffords.

There was life before the shooting, and there is life after it.

But the video announcing Giffords' resignation was a powerful mixture of the two divergent strands, layering her labored speech over images of the old Gabby. Her recovery is amazing and inspiring, but it's heartbreaking to see and hear what was taken away from her and from us.

"Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover," she says. "I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona I will step down this week. I'm getting better."

Giffords has promised to return to one day work for Arizona and this country. May it be so.

But before our focus shifts to the speculation and jockeying of who will take over her seat, let's pause to honor this chapter in our story, the hopes we placed on Gabby and the sadness of what was taken away.

Contact columnist Josh Brodesky at or 573-4242.