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American Hero Visits Brandywine 

Appearing in dark blue above, Daniel Hernandez speaks to 
Penn State Brandywine students. 
Photo Courtesy of Paul Alberici

Daniel Hernandez, the intern who has been credited for saving the life of Congress­woman Gabrielle Giffords, stopped by the cam­pus on October 18 to speak to students about leading through adversity.

Hernandez began his conversation with the students by providing background about his life. He grew up in Arizona, and was born to a working class family. His mother was a Mexi­can immigrant who did not speak English well. His father was born in California.

Hernandez described his father as a, “Mexican redneck” because of his hardworking nature.

Hernandez knew from a young age that he wanted to help people; he originally thought he would do this by working in medicine, most likely as a doctor or a nurse.

After completing a high school nurs­ing course, Hernandez thought that to get into a good medical school he would need to diver­sify his resume. This was during the Presiden­tial primary races in 2008, so Hernandez joined the Hillary Clinton campaign, and made calls on the candidate’s behalf.

This was Hernandez’s first time work­ing in politics and he enjoyed working on the campaign, but took the loss hard, swearing to never work in politics again.

Two days later, Hernandez was con­tacted by people who worked for Gabrielle Gif­fords; he was initially reluctant, but accepted an internship on her campaign. This time the cam­paign was a success.

Eventually, Hernandez became an in­tern for Giffords’ office, and that is when Her­nandez’s life would change forever.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords planned to have an event in her Arizona district called Congress on Your Corner. The event was a chance for people who lived in her congressional district to come see their congresswoman in person, and get a chance to speak to her.

“[The event] was important to Gabby,” Hernandez said.

January 8, 20l1, however, would not be a normal Congress on Your Corner. Short­ly after the event started, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on the crowd. Loughner shot the congresswoman and 18 others before he was detained. Six of those people died.

After the shooting Hernandez ran over to the congresswoman, who had been shot in the head. He tried to get her to communicate, however, she couldn’t. He asked her to squeeze his hand if she understood him. He did every­thing he knew to do to keep her conscious.

Hernandez even looked out for her publicity in this desperate time. When the EMTs got to Giffords, they had to cut away her clothes to properly treat her.

“I covered her up,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t want someone to take a picture of her like that.”

After the shooting Hernandez became somewhat of a celebrity, and honored as a hero.

Hernandez told the students that the shooting did not change his political opinions, but it did change the way he handles certain sit­uations. He said he has less animosity towards people who disagree with him now, and he ap­proaches situations more calmly.

Hernandez’s message to the students at Brandywine was an interesting one. He did not give out any direct advice, but rather, left it up to students to take what he said and apply it to their daily lives.

 

Keith Petersen

Lion’s Eye Staff Writer, rkp5118@psu.edu

 

 

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