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Arizona– The recent tragedy in Tucson hits close to home for Congolese immigrant Joseph Mbangu, who sought asylum in the city after he and his family fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000.

Mbangu fondly remembers his wife Christine’s naturalization ceremony that Judge John Roll presided over in 2006, and recalls casting his first vote for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in her Democratic campaign for Congress that same year.

“I believed in her message of change, and she really convinced me,” Mbangu told theGrio. “She was coming out of state senator, and did a very great job, and was the only candidate that stood out to me,” he said.

Mbangu’s vote for Rep. Giffords also stands out in his memory because he said it was his first experience voting in a democratic system.

Read more at TheGrio