Arizona Hero Daniel Hernandez: I 'Shut Off My Emotions To Get Stuff Done'

January 13, 2011

Mark Memmott

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How did he apparently stay so calm and keep his head?

That's a question many have asked after hearing about what 20-year-old intern Daniel Hernandez Jr. did on Saturday when shots were fired during an event that his boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was holding at a strip mall in Tucson.

While six people lay dying and another 13, including Giffords, were down with gunshot wounds, Hernandez ran toward the sound of gunfire and to the congresswoman. He held the 40-year-old Giffords and administered some basic first aid that helped keep her alive.

Last night at the memorial service in Tucson, Hernandez insisted he's not a hero. President Obama insisted he is.

Today on Tell Me More, host Michel Martin asked Hernandez about his "poise under pressure ... where does it come from?"

"I think I've always just had the strange ability to kind of work under pressure and to shut off my emotions to get stuff done because I thrive when I'm under stress," he said.

Of course, Hernandez added, before Saturday that ability mostly was of good use "for big homework assignments ... not anything of real consequence."

Also during their conversation, Hernandez told Michel that "when I heard the gunshots, I knew she [Giffords] was likely ... the target, but probably not the only victim."

And, he described his last few days as "absolutely surreal."

"To go from such great sadness and loss to kind of as a community and a nation move forward in our grieving process," was important, he added. "Last night was absolutely a great step forward in bringing everyone together."

Here's the audio of their conversation: Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.