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Rep. Scalise returns to Capitol Hill 3 months after GOP baseball practice shooting

This image from House Television shows House Republican Whip Steve Scalise speaking on the House floor of the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. To hugs and a roaring bipartisan standing ovation, Scalise returned to the House on Thursday, more than three months after a baseball practice shooting left him fighting for his life. (House Television via AP)

With a fist pump and a smile, Steve Scalise returned to the House he loves.

“It’s amazing,” smiled Mary Monaco, a visitor from Houston. “It’s what we do as Americans.”

The entire US House of Representatives rose up as for a standing ovation as the 51-year-old Majority Whip entered the storied chamber Thursday.

“Our prayers have been answered,” exclaimed House Speaker Paul Ryan. “His bravery and his family’s strength have been such an inspiration to this house and the people it serves. America is grateful for this moment.”

Scalise didn’t let his crutches slow him down.

There were hugs, and tears, and words of thanks.

“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s house,” Scalise told the packed chamber. “If you look at the outpouring of love, of warmth, of prayer. Oh my gosh, Jennifer and I have been overwhelmed.”

It was a loving, affectionate reunion, after a horrific day three months ago.

On the morning of June 14, an Illinois man, later identified as James Hodgkinson, armed with an SKS rifle and a 9mm handgun, opened fire on a GOP baseball practice in Alexandria.

Suddenly, Scalise was down, badly wounded in the hip, unable to move.

Congressional aide Zack Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika were also shot.

“I just started to pray and I’ll tell you, it gave me an unbelievable sense of calm, knowing at that point, I was in God’s hands,” Scalise says.

In the ensuing gun battle, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, both US Capitol Police Officers assigned to Scalise’s security detail, rushed onto the field to protect the congressman and other civilians.

“When I was laying there, not long after the first couple of shots were fired, I could hear a different caliber weapon,” Scalise recalls. “And that told me they immediately engaged the shooter.”

Griner was wounded in the leg, and Bailey was struck by shrapnel, as officers exchanged gun fire with Hodgkinson for ten minutes, before he was fatally wounded.

“If they didn’t act so quickly, and even after being shot, both continued to engage the shooter and ultimately got him down, which not only saved my life, but saved the lives of a lot of the people in this chamber today,” Scalise says.

Representative Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist who served in an Army Combat Hospital, was able to tie a tourniquet onto Scalise’s leg, stopping the bleeding and likely saving his life.

Scalise today gave Wenstrup got a big hug, and gave a shout out to Bailey, who stood and smiled from the audience.

“David, you are my hero. You saved my life! Thank you so much,” he called.

“To hear a colleague of ours, to be literally shot, his life hanging in the balance, it brings into perspective the shortness of life, and the fragile nature that it is,” says Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan, a longtime friend of Scalise’s.

It turns out that Mika was one of Walberg’s former aides.

There were a lot of sleepless nights.

“Having those two people close in my life be impacted by a guy who let bitterness and hatred cause him to make a bad decision,” Walberg said, shaking his head. “We come out stronger because of it.”

Mika was treated for his wounds and was later released by an area hospital.

For Scalise, the road to healing was longer and more difficult, with multiple surgeries.

“It was surreal,” Walberg remembers.

The Michigan republican pulled up his sleeve, revealing an armband, which says quite simply #Scalisestrong.

“We know and love Steve, (he) was in my class,” Walberg says. “I've worn this all the time, being reminded of Steve and the opportunity to pray for him.”

“Of course we knew the story and how tragic it was when it happened,” says David Monaco, who hoped to visit with Scalise. “It was really a nice surprise to see him go back to Congress.”

After his speech, Scalise participated in three votes.

Yes, he really was back, alright.

“Today it was just an amazing experience to see him walk, in albeit with crutches, and yet with the same strong smile on his face and a positive attitude,” Walberg says.

More than anyone else, Scalise made it clear he was thankful to be here.

“While some people might focus on a tragic event and an evil act, to me, all I remember is are the thousands of acts of kindness, of love and warmth that came out of this,” he said. “Kept me going through all of this.”With a fist pump and a smile, Steve Scalise returned to the House he loves.

“It’s amazing,” smiled Mary Monaco, a visitor from Houston. “It’s what we do as Americans.”

The entire US House of Representatives rose up as for a standing ovation as the 51-year old Majority Whip entered the storied chamber Thursday.

“Our prayers have been answered,” exclaimed House Speaker Paul Ryan. “His bravery and his family’s strength have been such an inspiration to this house and the people it serves. America is grateful for this moment.”

Scalise didn’t let his crutches slow him down.

There were hugs, and tears, and words of thanks.

“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s house,” Scalise told the packed chamber. “If you look at the outpouring of love, of warmth, of prayer. Oh my gosh, Jennifer and I have been overwhelmed.”

It was a loving, affectionate reunion, after a horrific day three months ago.

On the morning of June 14th, an Illinois man later identified as James Hodgkinson, armed with an SKS rifle and a 9mm handgun, opened fire on a GOP baseball practice in Alexandria.

Suddenly, Scalise was down, badly wounded in the hip, unable to move.

Congressional aide Zack Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika were also shot.

“I just started to pray and I’ll tell you, it gave me an unbelievable sense of calm, knowing at that point, I was in God’s hands,” Scalise says.

In the ensuing gun battle, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, both US Capitol Police Officers assigned to Scalise’s security detail, rushed onto the field to protect the congressman and other civilians.

“When I was laying there, not long after the first couple of shots were fired, I could hear a different caliber weapon,” Scalise recalls. “And that told me they immediately engaged the shooter.”

Griner was wounded in the leg, and Bailey was struck by shrapnel, as officers exchanged gun fire with Hodgkinson for ten minutes, before he was fatally wounded.

“If they didn’t act so quickly, and even after being shot, both continued to engage the shooter and ultimately got him down, which not only saved my life, but saved the lives of a lot of the people in this chamber today,” Scalise says.

Representative Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist who served in an Army Combat Hospital, was able to tie a tourniquet onto Scalise’s leg, stopping the bleeding and likely saving his life.

Scalise today gave Wenstrup got a big hug, and gave a shout out to Bailey, who stood and smiled from the audience.

“David, you are my hero. You saved my life! Thank you so much,” he called.

“To hear a colleague of ours, to be literally shot, his life hanging in the balance, it brings into perspective the shortness of life, and the fragile nature that it is,” says Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan, a longtime friend of Scalise’s.

It turns out that Mika was one of Walberg’s former aides.

There were a lot of sleepless nights.

“Having those two people close in my life be impacted by a guy who let bitterness and hatred cause him to make a bad decision,” Walberg said, shaking his head. “We come out stronger because of it.”

Mika was treated for his wounds and was later released by an area hospital.

For Scalise, the road to healing was longer and more difficult, with multiple surgeries.

“It was surreal,” Walberg remembers.

The Michigan republican pulled up his sleeve, revealing an armband, which says quite simply #Scalisestrong.

“We know and love Steve, (he) was in my class,” Walberg says. “I've worn this all the time, being reminded of Steve and the opportunity to pray for him.”

“Of course we knew the story and how tragic it was when it happened,” says David Monaco, who hoped to visit with Scalise. “It was really a nice surprise to see him go back to Congress.”

After his speech, Scalise participated in three votes.

Yes, he really was back, alright.

“Today it was just an amazing experience to see him walk, in albeit with crutches, and yet with the same strong smile on his face and a positive attitude,” Walberg says.

More than anyone else, Scalise made it clear he was thankful to be here.

“While some people might focus on a tragic event and an evil act, to me, all I remember is are the thousands of acts of kindness, of love and warmth that came out of this,” he said. “Kept me going through all of this.”

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