On Saturday, January 8, 2011, Gabe Zimmerman, a Congressional staffer for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, passed into the Hands of the Father. Two fellow staffers, Ron Barber and Pam Simon, were injured and are in the hospital.
I did not know Gabe Zimmerman and I have never met Barber, Simon or anyone on Congresswoman Giffords’s staff. But as a former Congressional staffer myself, I did not have to know Zimmerman and his colleagues in order to know a lot about them.
Working for a Member of Congress puts a person in a special fraternity of people who go to work each and every day trusting in the system and hoping that their work is making a difference. It doesn’t matter whether someone works on the Hill or back in the district, a Congressional staffer remains a staffer forever.
A staffer not only supports their boss, but they also live vicariously through them. When their boss is on television, the staffer watches. When their boss passes legislation, the staffer stands on the sidelines and cheers. It’s the staffer’s job to get the boss’ name in the newspaper, not theirs.
Staffers may leave the employment of Congress, but membership in the fraternity is forever. They are proud of what their boss, with the staff’s help, has accomplished. When current and former staffers meet, they offer a similar greeting: “Really? Who did you work for?” And when they leave for other jobs, they hang autographed pictures of them and their boss on the walls of their new office.
Thoughts of violence against the boss are always in the back of the mind of a Congressional staffer, but it doesn’t stop them from doing their jobs.
They believe in their boss. They believe in the institution of Congress. And they believe that they are making a difference.
To all the staffers who were at the scene, all of us current and former staffers are proud of you.
To Ron Barber and Pam Simon, we all pray for your recovery.
To Gabe Zimmerman and his family — Peace.
And, to all our colleagues on the staff of Congresswoman Giffords and their families, we current and former staffers hope that you will be comforted in a way that can only flow from the grace of God. Know that there are literally thousands of us who are feeling your pain and asking that you lean on our thoughts and prayers for strength.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.