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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Gay intern called 'hero' for role helping to save Rep. Giffords' life
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Gay intern called 'hero' for role helping to save Rep. Giffords' life

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

University of Arizona junior Daniel Hernandez, 20, is credited with helping to save Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) life as she lay gravely wounded after being shot in the head on January 8 in Tucson.

Hernandez, a member of the City of Tucson Commission on LGBT Issues, is being hailed as a hero, and for good reason. When Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire at Giffords' 'Congress On Your Corner' meet-and-greet at a Tucson Safeway, Hernandez ran toward the gunshots and toward his boss (Hernandez started working as an intern for Giffords just five days prior).

Hernandez joins 61-year-old Patricia Maisch (who grabbed the gunman's second magazine), and two men, Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zimudie (who tackled Loughner after he opened fire), as the four heroes of the violent day in which six people were killed and Rep. Giffords was left clinging to life. Their actions likely saved dozens of lives.

For Hernandez, a political science major, his job on Saturday morning was easy enough: sign people in and control traffic at the event.

When the shooting started, he was more than 30 feet away and around a corner.

'When I heard someone say 'Gun!' I knew there was likely a gunman and she was likely the target because of her position. So I rushed to where I knew she would be,' Hernandez told the Associated Press.

After the suspect was restrained, Hernandez said he started checking the pulses of those hurt, including staffer Ron Barber. Then, he noticed Giffords had been shot in the head, and he rushed to help the congresswoman.

'I've known them for a few years, and I consider them personal friends. So it wasn't just the person I was working for. It was, 'This is my friend Gabby, and this is my friend Ron.' And I needed to make sure that they were OK,' he said.

According to witnesses, he hugged Giffords up against his chest and sat her upright. He tried to stop the blood loss with his hands and some frocks provided by butchers from the Safeway.

Giffords was conscious and alert, Hernandez said.

'She wasn't speaking, however, she was letting me know that she understood what I was saying by grasping my hand and squeezing when I would ask her to,' he said.

He rode with Giffords in an ambulance to the hospital, where she is now in critical condition but expected to survive.

'I don't consider myself a hero,' Hernandez said. 'This is something that I've only done once and I hope I never have to do it again.'

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