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Gay Giffords Intern Celebrated As Hero

By L.K. Regan

A young, gay man, Daniel Hernandez, is being widely lauded for the heroism he showed during the tragic shooting in Tucson, Az. that gravely injured Democratic U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and took the lives of six others last weekend.

Daniel Hernandez is only 20 years old—a sophomore at the University of Arizona. Moreover, he had only been working for five days as an intern to Representative Giffords when the attack on her was made this past weekend at a Tucson shopping area. But he had had medical training, and sprang into action when he heard gunshots. "It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots," he told an Arizona newspaper, "but people needed help." Hernandez ran toward Giffords, who was bleeding from a bullet wound to the head. “I worked at hospitals, so I knew basic triage and basic first aid,” Hernandez told an interviewer. He sat Giffords up and propped her against his chest so that she would continue to be able to breathe, and he applied pressure to her wound to slow the bleeding.

He also tried to reassure Giffords, who he says was incapable of speech, but nonetheless conscious. “Once the emergency services had arrived, I tried to attend to her emotional needs,” he said. “I tried to let her know that she was still there by holding her hand, making sure she knew that she was going to be all right.” Hernandez rode with Giffords to the hospital, continuing to reassure her. Though Hernandez says, "I don't think I'm a hero," Arizona Representative Steve Farley told reporters that, "I think it's possible that his swift thinking and his training is what saved her life."

Hernandez's heroism has made him a figure of hope out of these terrible events. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Monday in her State of the State address asked Hernandez to stand, and led the assembly in a standing ovation. Hernandez "showed no fear in the face of gunfire," Brewer said, and may very well have saved Giffords' life with his quick actions. While the fact that Hernandez is gay was mentioned in some early media reports, mainstream outlets have not discussed it. Yet the gay community can and will claim him as a hero.

Here is Hernandez on the Today show, describing his actions with modesty and grace:

Representative Giffords has been a long-standing friend to the gay community and is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. "Fairness is an essential American value," read her campaign materials. Said LGBT Congressional Staff Association President Chris Crowe, "Congresswoman Giffords' support for our LGBT family has never faltered.... She has stood with us unrelentingly, and in this sad time we stand with her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Congresswoman, her staff and their families." As do all of ours.