Gabrielle Giffords serves a politically divided community. As long as I've known her, she's worked honestly and tirelessly to bridge that divide.

There are few greater goals in public life than bringing people together and creating unity. Whatever your politics, Giffords is a listener and a seeker of solutions.

In politics and in life, that is a rare thing.

She spread that ethic to her staff, as Tucson knows very well. Gabe Zimmerman, her director of community outreach, had an incredible and contagious desire to help people and make their lives better.

When we speak of public service, we sometimes forget the many unelected but no less dedicated men and women whose work enriches the city, district, state or country they serve. Tucson, and I hope the country, will never forget public servants like Gabe. He will be missed by more people than he could ever know.

It is in the spirit of unity, in which he believed so strongly, that we all go forward together.

As difficult as this time has been for Tucson and the nation, this can be a moment when the best is truly in each of us.

This can be a time when the truest values of humanity join us all - values that let us mourn appropriately, reflect together, take time for ourselves and bring us closer. At this moment, there is no greater goal than to heal our wounds and grow stronger.

Out of great tragedy and sorrow, there will be a new America. Pain brings people together and reminds us of the time we all share on this Earth. It also reminds us of the value of being good to one another, and how easily we forget ourselves in a heated moment.

Pain, as horrible as it is, is inevitable. Our lives cannot be free of it. What matters now - what always matters - is how we respond to it.

I hope this pain, as deep as it is, builds so many of the bridges that Gabrielle Giffords and Gabe Zimmerman wanted to build across our divided America that they can never fall again. We can do no greater honor to what we have lost.

Our most important response will not be political - it will be simply human. It will be to build bridges and remember those who have died. Public life should be about bringing people together; so should private life.

We are stronger and more human when we are together. That's true of a family, a community and a country. In a very real sense, a country - our country - is a family. Families may fight, disagree and say things they regret, but in the end, they come together. They rejoin their hands and make peace.

This is a time to make peace in America.

There are few occasions to offer a call for national unity, and in our lifetimes there will be few others. I sincerely hope the next is not another tragedy.

With that hope, today I add my voice to the many who call for a stronger national family. There is nothing more important.