Video by Ignacio Torres
Two years ago, Daniel Hernandez was 20, and a political intern to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. When she was shot on January 8, 2011, it was he who came to her rescue.
“I was working as an intern in charge of finding people as they came into the event [Congress On Your Corner at a shopping center in Northwest Tucson, Ariz.] I was helping to staff it,” said Hernandez in another NBC Latino interview. “At 10am the event started, and 10 minutes later the shots started. I was 30 to 40 feet away from her when it happened. I dropped everything to help…Giffords became my biggest priority. She started to bleed. I propped her up against my chest. Using my bare hands to stop the blood flow. The EMT came about 10 minutes later. After they came, I still stayed and rode with her to the hospital – keeping her engaged and keeping her alert and conscious.”
This week, his book, “They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth,” hit shelves. The memoir — targeted for young readers ages 12 and up — talks about Daniel’s life as a student at The University of Arizona, being the youngest person ever elected to the Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board, living with Graves disease, and the traits that a young person needs to become an upstanding citizen.
Hernandez says when he was diagnosed with Graves disease at 17 (causing him to miss three-fourths of his junior year of high school), he was told by administrators to give up.
“‘You’re from the South side of Tucson. No one expects you to go to college. No one expects you to graduate from high school,'” he remembers hearing. “And that was one of the big driving forces for me to say I’m going to get better.”
And he did show them he could not only get better, but be an inspiration to others.
“My only real aspiration is to do what I can to help my community and to serve,” he says.