Daniel Hernandez, the young college intern who came to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' rescue after she was shot earlier this month in Tucson, will attend President Obama's State of the Union Address as a guest of Michelle Obama, along with the family of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who died in the Jan. 8 attack at a Tucson grocery store that killed six and injured several others.
Here's what Hernandez, who turns 21 today, told USA Today:
"It's definitely a very exciting way to be spending my 21st birthday," Hernandez said in an interview. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I only wish it had happened under different circumstances."
In the weeks since the shooting, Hernandez has drawn a legion of fans, in part because of his heroism, in part because he also happens to be Latino and openly gay, and in part because of his uncanny calm and poise at a tender age. Hernandez, who had been working for Giffords for five days at the time of the shooting, ran toward the sound of the gunfire when shots rang out, then used skills he had learned in nursing training to check the pulses of those on the ground. He applied steady pressure to Giffords' head wound to help stem the flow of blood and prevented her from choking, actions for which he's been credited with saving her life.
Then, during the Jan. 12 memorial service at the University of Arizona, where he is a student, he proved himself a rousing public speaker while refusing the title of "hero."
As it turns out, Hernandez had been interviewed by news media before - when he was 10. From the Arizona Daily Star:
When Daniel Hernandez Jr. was about 10 years old, he was interviewed on KUAT, Channel 6, about bilingual classes at his south-side school, Liberty Elementary.
The youngster was calm and spoke in a measured tone, said his father, Daniel Hernandez Sr.
The undoubtedly proud Hernandez Sr., who is 61, flew to Washington with his son and will watch on a monitor at the White House, according to USA Today.