Last Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a constituent event held by U. S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in Tucson, Ariz., killing six people and injuring 14, including the Congresswoman.
Among the dead were Gabe Zimmerman, 30, one of Giffords’ staffers; U.S. District Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl born on Sept. 11, 2001.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the heroic actions of one of Giffords’ new interns have been repeatedly noted. Media reported that Daniel Hernandez Jr., 20, used his hands to put pressure on Giffords’ gushing head wound after she was shot and directed bystanders to administer basic First Aid to other victims.
Hernandez is also, as listed on his Facebook page, a member of the Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues.
Mainstream media have honed in on his heroism, and he’s been interviewed by the “Today Show” and Rachel Maddow, among others. He was given a standing ovation at Gov. Jan Brewer’s “State of the State” speech. So far, mainstream media haven’t mentioned that he’s (likely) gay.
In interviews, Hernandez has been modest and well spoken and deflected the praise to given him, instead recognizing Giffords’ dedication to public service. He credited his quick and competent response to high-school training in nursing and phlebotomy, where he was a certified nursing assistant.
That the media hasn’t broadcast his sexual orientation is both a boon and a missed opportunity.
It’s a boon in that his sexual orientation isn’t relevant; a missed opportunity in that Hernandez would be — is — a great role model for LGBT youth.
Hernandez was by no means the only hero on Jan. 8. Several individuals helped to disarm and subdue the suspected gunman, Jared Lee Loughner.
One man hit Loughner in the head with a chair; another man who’d been grazed with a bullet hit him in the back. A woman kept an extra ammunition magazine out of Loughner’s reach. Several people pinned him down until authorities came. A doctor who attended the event provided CPR. Others administered First Aid to the wounded.
These people all acted bravely and unselfishly. Without their actions, the gunman would have likely fired more than the 33 bullets he ultimately shot. Likely more would have been wounded and more killed.
But Hernandez’ actions are unique because of his age, because this was his first week working for Giffords and because what he did likely saved her life.
The LGBT community — and society at large — needs more role models like him.