SPRING TWP., Pa. - Students at Penn State University's Berks campus got the chance to meet a real-life hero Wednesday night.
Daniel Hernandez Jr., the former congressional intern credited with saving former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life, spoke to an anxious crowd at the Perkins Student Center Auditorium in Spring Township.
Hernandez was there in January, 2011, during a gathering outside a supermarket near Tucson, Az., when shots rang out. Six people were killed, and 13 others were injured, including Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
It was Hernandez who was right there when the congresswoman needed him most.
"For the first couple of minutes, nine actually, it was myself and the congresswoman, and I was just applying direct pressure because I didn't have any medical equipment until the EMTs arrived about nine minutes after the shooting," Hernandez said.
Jared Loughner pleaded guilty to the crime and is now facing multiple life sentences in prison.
Hernandez said when he was helping to save the congresswoman's life, he had to put his fear aside.
"The realization that there were friends and mentors and people who you really cared about, who were being injured, would have been too overpowering, so I just shut everything off and just focused on the limited training that I had," Hernandez said.
Hernandez has documented his harrowing experience in a memoir titled, "They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth."
Hernandez doesn't see Giffords as much as he used to due to their busy schedules, but he did say the congresswoman never forgot how Hernandez's mom would always make her cakes for special occasions.
"Even after everything that had happened, she still remembered the small things and the small details," Hernandez said, "which was really kind of great to see that despite the difficulty she had speaking she was still the same person."
Hernandez plans to share his story on all the campuses of Penn State. He said if students take away one message, he just wants them to understand the importance of public service.
Allentown, PA 18102