09/13/2012 10:35 am ET

How to Be Friends With a Congresswoman

Congress isn't exactly the most welcoming place in the country for women — on a scale of lady friendliness, it probably falls somewhere between "NFL locker room after a big loss" and "XBox Live chatroom." Women in Washington are on their own, but for each other. And when they do find each other, they form the sort of bond that can transcend tragedy, distance, illness, and heartbreak. The sort of bond between Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In January of 2011, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured in a shooting that ended the lives of six people and injured a dozen more. When she appeared in public at different points during her incredible recovery, a few familiar faces continually appeared by her side — her husband and staff members, but also female colleagues from the House of Representatives. Most visible of those female colleagues was Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who steadied her walk alongside her when she appeared at the State of the Union address, who through tears read Giffords' resignation letter aloud when the Arizona Democrat couldn't, and who stood with Giffords onstage at the Democratic National Convention when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance and made it rain tears on everyone's face. How do two women in the contentious world of Washington go from strangers to the sort of friends who would schedule trips around visiting the other in the hospital, the sort of friends who would trust the other with their voice?

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