Screen shot from AP video
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
Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)
An opinion piece from an NPR contributor relating ethnicity to last Saturday's shooting in Tucson has drawn hundreds of comments on the website. Titled "Across America, Latino Community Sighs With Relief," it poses this question: What if the gunman had been Latino?
The essay is written by Daisy Hernandez, former editor of the magazine ColorLines. In it she describes her reaction when she heard about the rampage. She rushed to her Android phone, she writes, searching for the suspected killer's surname:
My eyes scanned the mobile papers. I held my breath. Finally, I saw it: Jared Loughner. Not a Ramirez, Gonzalez or Garcia.
It's safe to say there was a collective sigh of brown relief when the Tucson killer turned out to be a gringo. Had the shooter been Latino, media pundits wouldn't be discussing the impact of nasty politics on a young man this week — they'd be demanding an even more stringent anti-immigrant policy. The new members of the House would be stepping over each other to propose new legislation for more guns on the border, more mothers to be deported, and more employers to be penalized for hiring brown people. Obama would be attending funerals and telling the nation tonight that he was going to increase security just about everywhere.
"On Saturday, we all became Tucsonans. On Saturday, we all became Arizonans. And above all, we all became Americans."
- Daniel Hernandez, the intern credited with saving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's life during last Saturday's shooting in Tucson
In addition to being impressively courageous, 20-year-old University of Arizona student Daniel Hernandez turns out to be an impressive public speaker.
Hernandez spoke at the memorial service held at the university in Tucson tonight, also attended by President Obama. During his speech, Hernandez begged off the title of "hero," saying it belonged to others, among them his boss, Giffords. But Obama called him a hero anyway.
Hernandez had been working for Giffords for five days Saturday when suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a public event outside a grocery store. Six were killed, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and several others injured. Hernandez ran to the victims as he heard the shots, taking the pulses of those on the ground, stemming the bleeding from the bullet wound on Giffords' forehead and preventing her from choking.
"A climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated can lead to such a tragedy."
- Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor of UC Berkeley, in a letter to the campus community
UC Berkeley News has published Birgeneau's letter, in which he cites Arizona's political climate as it relates to immigration - in particular, the state's embrace of controversial anti-illegal immigration legislation - as contributing to an environment "in which such an act can be contemplated, even by a mind that is profoundly disturbed."
Here's the quote in context:
Such a brutal and violent attack on an individual who has devoted herself to public service is deeply regrettable. It calls upon us as an academic community to stop and ponder the climate in which such an act can be contemplated, even by a mind that is profoundly disturbed. A climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated can lead to such a tragedy. I believe that it is not a coincidence that this calamity has occurred in a state which has legislated discrimination against undocumented persons.
Much has been made by now of the story of Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year-old intern credited with likely saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after Saturday's assassination attempt and shooting rampage in Tucson. The University of Arizona student ran toward the victims after hearing shots fired, checking the pulses of those on the ground and holding Giffords upright as he applied constant pressure to the wound on her forehead. Even after help arrived, he didn't leave her side. He had been on the job with Giffords' office for five days.
At first, it was simply news that he was heroic. It then became news that he was heroic while also being Latino and gay.
In another place at another time, only the heroism would have mattered. But because this occurred in 2011 in Arizona, where it's no secret that Latinos and gays have felt slighted by some of their political leaders, Hernandez's act of bravery has become as much symbolic as heroic.