I’m delighted to host today’s Book Salon with Daniel Hernandez, whose early first response saved Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ life in Tucson more than two years ago. Parts of this book are hard to read, particularly Daniel’s evocative first chapters about the shooting itself.
It’s also amazing to think that this tragedy happened more than two years ago. How far we’ve come since then — and how many other tragedies like this one have occured! And yet, no action’s been taken to mitigate any of the circumstances that allowed it. Reading the first chapters, about the shooting and its immediate aftermath, brings back difficult emotions: I remember vividly that we all had heard that the Congresswoman had died. Besides my feelings for her family, friends, and constituents, I remember thinking that day, “Well, surely now, Congress will do something about these gun massacres.”
Daniel Hernandez evokes that difficult day quite eloquently; he takes you right into the hospital, where he waited for hours simply for word of his friend Gabby’s medical status, where his own family knew only the sketchiest details, and where we learn than when you’re part of a crime scene, you can’t change out of your blood-drenched clothes until you’re told to.
Daniel does a remarkable job of taking us inside that day, which none of us would hope to be inside of, ever. He recalls his specific feelings and frustrations at being at the absolute center of the event, but knowing little about its outcome. And then, in an avalanche of media attention, he describes how he undertook an overwhelming 215 interviews by the day of the memorial service in Tucson. There he met President Obama and the First Lady. There his iconic media status was cemented by that hug from the President, who said to him, moments after announcing to a cheering crowd that he had just come from Gabby Giffords’ hospital bedside, where she’d opened her eyes for the first time: “And, Daniel, I’m sorry, you may deny it, but we’ve decided you are a hero, because you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive.”
Thus began the journey of a young man who became an icon for so many: a gay, Hispanic student intern who ran toward danger to save a Congresswoman shot in the line of duty and ended up sitting with the First Lady at the State of the Union. In this book, Daniel Hernandez takes us behind his iconic status, though, and shares with us the joys, and troubles and challenges, of growing up gay and Hispanic, and not-rich, in America.
His isn’t an unusual story, it’s certainly repeated all across America every day, and yet when events intervened, he answered the call. It’s very encouraging to know people will do this, step up when they must, and apply their training to a situation none of us can imagine. Learn more about Daniel Hernandez and his extraordinary but ordinary American life as we chat with him over the next two hours about his Memoir of My Youth.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]