POLITICS

Meet Daniel Hernández: Giffords' Intern with Nerves of Steel

Daniel Hernandez, an intern with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., walks across the lawn outside University Hospital Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz. Hernandez attended to Giffords and others immediately after Giffords was shot in the head a day earlier during a speech at a local supermarket. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Daniel Hernandez, an intern with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., walks across the lawn outside University Hospital Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz. Hernandez attended to Giffords and others immediately after Giffords was shot in the head a day earlier during a speech at a local supermarket. (AP Photo/Matt York)  (AP2011)

Daniel Hernández, 20, comes off as a soft-spoken, intelligent young man. But it was his steel and calm -- literally under fire -- that saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life.

In an interview with Fox News Latino, Hernández spoke about Saturday's tragedy and opened up about himself and his family. The tale of Hernández running towards the gunfire amid mayhem, stands out as one of the few bright spots from such a dark day. But the question remains, why did he do it?

“My main goal was to try to make sure the congresswoman and everyone was ok," the University of Arizona junior said. "When I saw injured people I tried to tend to them as good as I could, until emergency personnel arrived.”

Hernández' mother, Consuelo, is from Mexico and his father is from California. His mother came to the United States about a year before Daniel was born in Tucson, in 1990. Hernández said his parents, who have been married 21 years, were very worried as events unfolded on Saturday.

"Once they heard about gunshots and fatalities, they were extremely concerned," he said. Hernández was aware that his parents knew he was at the event, so he called them during the ambulance ride to the hospital as he held on to Giffords' hand.

"The only call I made was to my parents to let them know that I wasn't injured but to not try to contact me," he said. 

Hernández said his parents were particularly affected by the shooting of Giffords, with whom they had a personal connection.

"They were mostly really saddened by the injuries, especially Congresswoman Giffords. who they met on several occasions," he said. "Especially if I was with my mother or father -- she would come over and give them a hug, so they knew she knew who they were."

The Mexican-American said that his personality was well-suited for the dangerous developments.

"Its how I've always been," he said. "Always able to remain calm and collected in any situation. Particularly in a stressful situation, emotional detachment, is extremely useful."

"I'm not sure where the trait comes from," he added. "Maybe its a little bit of teenage rebellion."

Hernández also gave his thoughts about the debate that emerged since the shooting spree about the level of vitriol in politics and the question of whether it needs to be toned down for the good of the country.

"Politics has become disruptive and about scoring political points," he said. "I hope the climate shifts towards constructive political discourse. I hope it becomes about working together as a country and moving forward."

Hernández says that at this point he isn't thinking about where he goes from here.

"Congresswoman Giffords is in grave condition and I'm not really thinking about the future at the moment," he said. "I'm thinking about the family members who lost someone."

But he did give a hint about his future, looking to those around him as examples.

"I want to remain in public service, but I'm not sure in what capacity," he said. 

"I look at the true heroism of Congresswoman Giffords, [District Manager] Ron Barber, [Community Outreach Coordinator] Gabe Zimmerman, who lost his life. and Pam Simon who was wounded," he said. "Those are the real heroes. True public servants, who spent their whole lives helping others."

If those are his role models and public service, his goal, Hernández might be more like them than he realizes.

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