TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - One Jan. 8 survivor said that day solidified his future in serving the Tucson community.
“I still vividly remember the first kind of shots. At first I thought maybe it’s fireworks,” said state Rep. Daniel Hernandez.
Hernandez was interning for Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords at the time of the shooting. He was helping to sign people up who wanted to speak with the congresswoman.
“But by the time I heard the third, the fourth, the fifth, I realized that it was something much more serious.”
At that moment, he reacted.
“As I was running to where Gabby was, the gunman was still shooting directly into the crowd and they were up against a wall,” he said. “So, thankfully we had Pat Maisch and Bill Badger who were able to stop the gunman from reloading and prevent him from causing any more deaths.”
Since then, Hernandez has been hailed a hero for the first aid he gave to Giffords. That day also impacted the rest of his life.
“We’ve all taken the grief and the trauma and decided to put it to use,” he said. “For me, that was running for office and trying to change the systems and the laws.”
In the last decade, he has focused a lot on gun violence prevention and mental health.
“We need to make sure that we increase the availability of mental health help.”
Marking January 8th this year will be different with the memorial but also because of COVID-19. He says while the survivors have been like family for the last ten years, they need to hold onto each other extra tight this year, even if they must do it, from a social distance.
“What we don’t want to have happen is that people feel lonely or that people feel this trauma and grief that comes every year on the date of the shooting and not have others that they can lean on,” he said.
As for the memorial itself, he is happy the victim’s families were touched by the gesture.
“When they said, ‘Oh this is gorgeous, this is beautiful, this is so meaningful,’ then I got to breathe a sigh of relief.”
As for the next ten years, he hopes to continue working toward changing our laws and he hopes the new memorial serves as a reminder of that day for all Tucsonans.
“I hope that Tucsonans will take away that that moment and that feeling that we had in the days after is not something that has ever gone away.”