Me llaman heroe (They Call Me a Hero)

Recuerdos de mi juventud

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About The Book

Daniel Hernandez helped save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and his life experience is a source of true inspiration in this heartfelt memoir, told in Spanish.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” says Daniel Hernandez. “I did what I thought anyone should have done. Heroes are people who spend a lifetime committed to helping others.”

When Daniel Hernandez was twenty years old, he was working as an intern for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. On January 8, 2011, during a “Congress on Your Corner” event, Giffords was shot. Daniel Hernandez’s quick thinking saved Giffords’s life until the paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital. Hernandez’s bravery and heroism has been noted by many, including President Barack Obama.

But while that may have been his most well-known moment in the spotlight, Daniel Hernandez, Jr., is a remarkable individual who has already accomplished much in his young life, and is working to achieve much more. This memoir, told in Spanish, explores Daniel’s life, his character, and the traits that a young person needs to rise above adversity and become a hero like Daniel.

Excerpt

CAPÍTULO UNO

LA MAñANA DEL SáBADO

“¡DISPAROS!” DIJO ALGUIEN, Y COMPRENDÍ: RECORDÉ ALGUNAS DE las cosas que habían ocurrido en los últimos meses. Había habido un evento de campaña donde un elector furioso había traído un arma, pero la había dejado caer. Y en marzo habían disparado a la puerta de la oficina de la congresista Gabby Giffords en Tucson después del voto de la ley de cuidados de salud. Gabe Zimmerman, el ayudante de Gabby, se me había acercado esa mañana y me dijo: “Si ves algo sospechoso, me avisas”.

Así que oí disparos y lo primero que hice fue pensar en Gabby, asegurarme de que ella estaba bien. Yo estaba a treinta o cuarenta pies de la congresista. Oí los disparos y corrí hacia el sonido.

No me considero un héroe. Hice lo que pensé que cualquiera habría hecho. Héroes son aquellas personas que se pasan la vida ayudando a otros. Yo no era más que un pasante de veinte años de edad que estaba en el lugar adecuado en el momento preciso.

Ese sábado 8 de enero de 2011 comenzó como otro día cualquiera. Me vestí con ropa casual: camisa, suéter con diseño de rombos, pantalones de caqui, el estilo que suelo vestir para ir al trabajo. Gabe Zimmerman había organizado un evento titulado “El congreso en tu esquina” en un centro comercial justamente al norte de Tucson. A la congresista Giffords le gustaba reunirse con sus electores en persona, hablarles de lo que les ocupaba la mente y discutir sus preocupaciones sobre lo que estaba ocurriendo en el Congreso. Algunas semanas antes yo había solicitado una pasantía en su oficina y me habían aceptado a mitad de la entrevista. Se suponía que yo comenzara el 12 de enero, cuando empezaba el curso escolar. Soy un estudiante de la Universidad de Arizona en la especialidad de ciencias políticas. Pero la oficina estaba corta de personal y me presenté de voluntario para empezar antes.

Había conocido a Gabby durante años. Había trabajado en sus campañas desde que la conocí en junio de 2008. Es la persona más cálida y bondadosa que uno puede conocer. “Yo no doy la mano, cariño”, dice siempre, “yo doy abrazos”.

Gabe me había pedido que estuviera en el mercado Safeway en la esquina de Ina y Oracle a las nueve de la mañana para ayudar a organizar el evento. Fui a un Safeway equivocado y no llegué al correcto hasta las nueve y media. El resto del equipo ya estaba allí y habían casi terminado de armar las mesas y unas cuantas sillas frente al mercado. Coloqué una pancarta cerca de la puerta que anunciaba el evento. Entonces ayudé a Gabe a colgar un estandarte entre dos postes que decía: GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, CONGRESO DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS, junto a una bandera de Arizona y una bandera de Estados Unidos. Me aseguré de que hubiera suficientes bolígrafos para que la gente pudiera firmar.

El siempre considerado Gabe era el trabajador social por excelencia. Lo querían todos los que lo conocían por su corazón amable y por tener una buena cabeza sobre sus hombros. Era lo que nosotros llamábamos el Susurrador de Electores, porque tenía la misteriosa habilidad de hablar con el más furioso elector y calmarlo.

Hacía frío aquella mañana, pero había claridad. Pam Simon, la coordinadora de información a la comunidad, fue al mercado a buscar café. Antes de ir le preguntó a Gabe si quería que le trajera algo. Pero Gabe dijo que no, pero le pidió que me preguntara a mí si yo quería algo. Me pareció un gesto increíblemente amable de Gabe pedirle a Pam que me preguntara. A veces los pasantes son olvidados en situaciones similares.

Cuando los electores comenzaron a llegar, tenían que verme a mí primero. Yo estaba parado con mi tablilla para inscribirlos junto a la pared trasera del mercado, cerca de la contigua farmacia Walgreens. Ahí era donde formaban la línea. Gabby estaba a unos cuarenta pies de la entrada de Safeway. Mientras formaban la línea para hablar con ella, escribían sus nombres, sus direcciones y sus números de teléfono. Llevábamos cuenta de cuántas personas se detenían al pasar y cuántas vivían en el distrito. Yo hablaba con todos.

Una niña llamada Christina-Taylor Green estaba allí con su vecina Suzi Hileman. Suzi se inscribió y yo me aseguré de que Christina-Taylor también lo hiciera, porque era tan joven y mostraba tanto entusiasmo por conocer a una congresista. Le pregunté a Christina-Taylor la edad y me dijo que tenía nueve años. Le pregunté a que escuela asistía y me dijo que estudiaba en la escuela primaria de Mesa Verde. Hablamos brevemente sobre su participación en el concejo de estudiantes. Entonces me dijo que quería hacerle una pregunta a Gabby, pero no quería que fuera una pregunta estúpida y necesitaba ayuda. En la mesa teníamos información que me habían dado en la forma de comunicados de prensa sobre los logros de la congresista. A pesar de que acaso superaban el nivel de comprensión de Christina-Taylor, le di copias de tres comunicados diferentes.

Entonces regresé al final de la línea para continuar inscribiendo a la gente.

Gabe había colocado unos montantes, postes metálicos con bandas de poliéster que utilizan los bancos para ayudar a sus clientes a formar líneas de espera. Le gustaba tenerlos en los eventos para definir claramente la entrada y la salida. Había sillas colocadas contra la pared para que los que estuvieran al frente pudieran sentarse antes de hablar con la congresista.

A las 9:55 Gabby llegó en su automóvil. A las diez en punto dio la bienvenida a todos y dijo: “Gracias por estar con nosotros en este friolenta mañana del sábado”. Venía vestida con una chaqueta color rojo vivo. Gabe se paró cerca en caso de que alguno de los presentes necesitara ayuda. Ron Barber, el dedicado director de distrito de Gabby, también se paró al lado de ella, escuchando y observando con orgullo a su jefa hablando cuidadosa y eficientemente con sus electores. Jim y Doris Tucker estaban a la cabeza de la línea, pero la primera persona en hablar realmente con la congresista fue el juez John Roll. Se había detenido a su paso para saludar. Entonces ella habló con los Tucker y con Dorwan y Mavy Stoddard.

Entretanto, al final de la línea, inscribí a Bill Badger, un coronel del ejército retirado. Aunque era republicano y Gabby era demócrata, él la admiraba y sabía que ella respondería sus preguntas.

Acababa de inscribir a Bill Badger cuando oí lo que pensé que era un arma de fuego. Eran las 10:10 de la mañana. Por cuestión de medio segundo pensé: Oh, tal vez son fuegos artificiales. Entonces oí a alguien gritar: “¡Disparos!”.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth
By Daniel Hernandez with Susan Goldman Rubin


About the Book

Twenty-year-old Daniel Hernandez is an intern working in U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords’s office when she and several others are shot at a constituent event on January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona. In his memoir, Hernandez describes the events that happened that day and the aftermath. He narrates his personal experiences growing up that led him to a career in public service and his passion for wanting to help people in turmoil.

Prereading Questions

1. Discuss the characteristics of a hero.

2. What makes some individuals jump to the aid of those facing danger, while others do not?

Questions for Discussion

1. Daniel Hernandez is a twenty-year-old intern working for Gabby Giffords on the day that she is shot in Arizona. How did he come to meet Gabby Giffords? What impressed him about her?

2. Describe the morning of the shooting. How does Daniel recall the events of that morning?

3. On the day of the shooting rampage, how did Daniel come to the aid of Gabby Giffords and other victims that day?

4. Why does Daniel contact Steve and Kelly Farley?

5. Daniel does not perceive himself as a hero. Why does he have this perspective? How does he define a hero? Do you think Daniel is a hero?

6. In the early hours of the aftermath, there was a great deal of misinformation about the day’s events. How did Daniel feel about these mistakes and how did he respond?

7. What effect did the Tucson Memorial have on Daniel? His meeting with the President? Arizona governor Jan Brewer spoke to Daniel at the Tucson Memorial and thanked him for his “uncommon courage.” Define “uncommon courage.” Is the phrase fitting? Why or why not?

8. Daniel reflects on being Hispanic and gay. What role does his ethnicity and his gender orientation play in the aftermath? How does Daniel feel about the attention to his identity?

9. After the Tucson shooting, the issue of gun control and mental health services comes to the forefront. What is Daniel’s perspective about what steps need to be taken? Do you agree or disagree and why?

10. Christiane Amanpour from CNN hosts a town hall meeting at Saint Odilia Church. What is the purpose of this meeting?

11. As an adolescent, Daniel believes he wants to enter the medical profession; however, he later decides he wants to work in the area of public policy. Why does he make this change? What do these two areas have in common?

12. Part II of the memoir flashes back to Daniel’s childhood and to his education. How does his childhood and education influence his decision to become an intern? How does his medical training aid him on the day of the shooting?

13. Describe Daniel’s relationship with his father. What role did his father play in his high school and college education? Support your response with evidence from the text.

14. What medical challenges did Daniel overcome in both high school and in college? How have these challenges strengthened his fortitude?

Questions for Further Discussion

1. The memoir is divided into four major parts: the shooting, growing up, obsessed with politics, the aftermath. These sections are not in chronological order. What effect does this organizational structure have on the story? Why is the memoir structured this way? Is this effective? Why or why not?

2. Today’s media is often criticized for sensationalism. Discuss Daniel’s descriptions of their responses, the interviews, and the aftermath. Do you agree with the manner in which he handled the media? Why or why not? Support your responses with evidence from the text.

3. The Tucson shooting rampage raised questions about gun control and mental health services. Given that even more public shootings have taken place since the Tucson rampage, what steps should we make as a country to prevent these kinds of senseless acts?

4. Daniel grew up in a bilingual family. What happened to bilingual education in his state and how did the change impact Daniel? How did it impact non-English-speaking students?

5. Identify five key events in Daniel’s life that have shaped him into the person he is today.

6. What does Daniel say he has learned from tragedy? How does he believe the shooting has changed his life?

7. At an early age, Daniel has compassion and empathy for others. Where do these characteristics come from? Why do some individuals develop deep compassion while others do not?


Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

This guide, written to align with the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of author

Daniel Hernandez is a 2012 graduate of the University of Arizona who is credited with having saved the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011, when he was an intern assisting the congresswoman with a constitutional event. He served as a member of the City of Tucson Commission on LGBT Issues, and is currently on the governing board of the Sunnyside Unified School District, where he attended public schools. He is dedicated to education advocacy and civic engagement. He is the author of They Call Me a Hero. Visit him at DanielHernandezJr.org.

Raves and Reviews

“On a day of enormous tragedy, we saw great bravery and compassion. When Daniel Hernandez heard gunshots that fateful day, he ran toward them, ultimately saving lives. This moving memoir tells the story of how Daniel became the quick-thinking, courageous and generous young man who would become a national hero."

– Nancy Pelosi

“I met Daniel Hernandez and came away feeling invigorated about America ’s future. We all watched Daniel in an incredible moment of heroism. Now, he’s made a life of service and whether he stays in local politics or hits the national stage, he will inspire America for a long time.”

– Erin Burnett, anchor of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront

"Daniel Hernandez is a true American hero. I have had the pleasure of meeting him, and it reminded me why I love this country: Only in America can a young boy whose mother was an immigrant land an internship with his Congresswoman and in the most terrifying moment of his life run towards the bullets to save her life. He handled his newfound fame with grace and dignity and continues to inspire people across the country."

– Piers Morgan, host of CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight

"This account...hits all the right notes. Throughout, [Daniel Hernandez] comes across as self-assured but not full of himself, conscious of but not obsessed with his image and his status as a multiple role model, opinionated but not angry or preachy. An absorbing eyewitness view of a shocking event wrapped in a fluent, engaging self-portrait."

– Kirkus Reviews

"[This] tense, moment-by-moment recounting of the shooting spree is gripping...Throughout, Hernandez strikes a tone that is humble, earnest, and impassioned, and his story is inspiring not only for his bravery during the shooting, but also for his commitment to education advocacy and public service."

– Publishers Weekly

“Daniel’s now-famous bravery is matched only by his remarkable sense of duty and deep respect for public service. His story should be required reading for young people wondering if and when they can make an impact on the world. The answers are ‘yes’ and ‘right now.’"

– Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute

“Daniel Hernandez is a shining example of civic duty and resilience in the face of hardship. His story will inspire young people everywhere and remind us all that there are true heroes among us.”

– Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, Huffington Post Media Group

“Daniel Hernandez did not become an extraordinary man on that horrible day in Tucson; that’s just when the world learned of him.”

– Shepard Smith, anchor of The Fox Report on FOX News Channel

"The heroic young man’s story will be appreciated by politically minded youths as well as those looking for a role model."

– School Library Journal

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