When Edna Briggs dies, she doesn’t want a well-meaning loved one to whitewash the ups and downs of her life. To avoid that, she is writing her own obituary.
Briggs, who is 69 and lives in Los Angeles, wants her farewell to offer insights into why her life turned out the way it did. Her two children might not understand how certain events — her father forbidding her from trying for a scholarship to Howard University, for example, or the pride of earning a prestigious internship — affected her path, so she’s handling it herself.
“I will describe my life the way I want it described,” says Briggs, a health care administrator and passionate genealogist. “I believe in having the final say.”
It’s an idea with which many Baby Boomers can identify, says Katie Falzone, spokeswoman for Legacy.com, a website that partners with newspapers and funeral homes to publish obituaries.
“Baby Boomers are comfortable talking about themselves in a way that previous generations never did,” says Falzone. “They’re used to defining their lives,” and to challenging the status quo.
While less than 1 percent of the obituaries on the site are self-written, the number is growing, she says.
Last year, the site ran about 525 self-penned obits, compared to only about 165 a decade ago.
The number has doubled in the last five years.
Who better to recount your story than yourself, says Sarah White, a writing coach in Madison, Wisconsin, who teaches a “selfie obituary” writing class online and at senior centers and libraries.
“Who knows all the parts of your life? Your children know you as a parent. Your co-workers know you professionally. Your spouse probably knows very little about your life at work. They say your siblings are the people with you your whole life,” she says. “I wouldn’t leave this up to my siblings. They don’t know anything about me.”
Kerry Kruckmeyer, who died unexpectedly in April, wrote the obituary that recently appeared about him in the Arizona Daily Star.
“I thought this would be different, amusing and enjoyable,” he wrote. He concluded that he had lived “a very good and blessed life for which I am most thankful.”
Kruckmeyer had distributed the document to his family about a decade ago, says his brother, Korey Kruckmeyer of Tucson, Arizona. “It’s typical of him,” Korey says. “It reflects his sense of humor.”
And the self-written obituary struck a chord with readers. “I’ve gotten a bunch of calls from people who don’t know me or Kerry just wanting to talk about it,” Korey Kruckmeyer says.
Writing such an essay — whether or not it’s actually published someday as an obituary — can be “very affirming,” White says. “It always seems to add up to more than the person realized.”
The writing process got Jim Weber of Tumwater, Washington, thinking about his future as well as his past.
“You may find you have some unfinished business,” says Weber, 60. “It may cause you to make decisions about how you want to spend the rest of your life.”
In his self-written obituary, he notes a strained relationship that he would like to see healed. He also pokes fun at his life, connecting his pursuit of a law degree to hours spent watching “Perry Mason” with his mother, and pointing out that he met his “third and final wife” in the freezer section of the local grocery.
White’s own selfie obituary highlights her love of traveling with her husband, her career as a commercial artist and writer, and her passion for her pets and the outdoors. “She also camped frequently in Wisconsin’s north woods,” she writes, “but would not reveal her favorite campsite even upon her deathbed.”
Putting your life down on paper is also an opportunity to share family history with future generations, she said. “I think people should leave a record of their life,” she says. “Be the ancestor you wish you had.”
Taking White’s class made Pattie Whitehouse of Victoria, British Columbia, realize she had a lot she wanted to say. She ended up with a document of more than 900 words, and intends to continue editing until she meets her ultimate deadline. Whitehouse injected some humor in the piece, which focuses on her passion for the environment. For now, the final line reads: “As she wished, Pattie’s remains were chipped and used as mulch.”
“Which tells you a lot about me,” the 65-year-old says. “The people who know me will recognize me in it.”
She plans to give the document to her partner, Robert, and her sisters to distribute upon her death.
Briggs, a widow, is putting everything in writing because her daughter doesn’t want to discuss the matter, she says. As a genealogist, Briggs says, she has seen too many erroneous obituaries. She also knows that handling the task now will make things easier for her daughter when she passes.
Alan Gelb, 66, of Chatham, New York, began thinking about preparing his final words when he started attending more funerals.
“When I would go to services, I found myself missing the voice of the person who was not with us,” he says.
Gelb, who helps high school students draft college entrance essays, decided that older adults could benefit from a similar task. In his book, “Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story” (Tarcher Books, 2015), he encourages readers to write a story that captures some of their core values, to pass it on to future generations. Gelb recommends having the story read at your funeral. The exercise is a good segue into obituary writing, he says.
“Writing your own obituary is sort of like voting for yourself whenßyou run for office,” he says. “It may be a bit self-serving but it is fully warranted, and it can make all the difference.”
An ancient zircon crystal unearthed in Western Australia may hold evidence that life appeared on the planet 4.1 billion years ago, or about 300 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of U.S. researchers.
Scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles said they recently collected some 10,000 multibillion year-old zircons in Jack Hills, Australia, including one believed to contain a carbon deposit that is 4.1 billion years old, give or take 10 million years.
“Its complete encasement in crack-free, undisturbed zircon demonstrates that it is not contamination from more recent geologic processes … (and) may be evidence for the origin of life on Earth by 4.1 (billion years ago),” according to a paper published by the team in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
Scientists have used the fossil record to assert that the history of life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago, in the form of single-celled creatures. Humans are believed to have first appeared on Earth only about 200,000 years ago.
The study was authored by Elizabeth Bell, Patrick Boehnke, and T. Mark Harrison of the University of California, Los Angeles along with Wendy Lao of Stanford.
You don’t need to be a wizard to see the “Harry Potter” books come to life.
The seven books are getting a makeover with more than 200 new illustrations in enhanced e-books made for Apple devices. More than half of the illustrations are animated or interactive, with such touches as a golden snitch from Quidditch matches flying away as you tap it on the screen. Series creator J.K. Rowling also goes deeper into some of the characters and story lines with a handful of pop-up annotations.
The editions are exclusive to Apple’s iBooks Store and require an Apple Inc. mobile device or a Mac computer to read. For other devices, including Amazon’s Kindle, standard electronic editions are available through Rowling’s Pottermore site.
The makeover offers readers young and old a new way to engage with the story. It also gives Rowling and her publishers an opportunity to resell these best-selling books, the last of which came out eight years ago. It’s akin to Hollywood releasing the same movies in new formats and with bonus materials.
While the illustrations are new and exclusive to the enhanced editions, Rowling’s annotations aren’t necessarily so. Rowling has been regularly posting new essays on Pottermore. She has traced Harry’s roots to a 12th-century wizard and has written about the origins of an invisibility cloak that appears throughout the series. Rowling has also penned supplemental books, including “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” a children’s book that was referenced in the last “Harry Potter” book.
Until recently, the Pottermore site also had a game that took readers through the books chapter by chapter, with riddles and other discoveries along the way. That game incorporated clips from the “Harry Potter” movies. The new e-books do not.
Instead, the new editions offer full-color illustrations and animation from Pottermore artists.
In one animation, you see multiple letters fly in through the fireplace with news of Harry’s acceptance to Hogwarts wizardry school. In another, an owl, a cat and the fog come to life on Platform 9 3/4, where a Hogwarts-bound train awaits. On the train, you see landscape moving by through a window.
In one scene of a feast, you can slide left and right to see the rest of a long table covered with food. It’s not obvious which illustrations are interactive. The idea is to get readers to explore.
There’s no sound, though. When Harry’s friend, Ron, gets an angry audio letter from his mother, you see steam coming out, but you don’t hear her screaming, as you do in the movie.
You can access Rowling’s supplemental materials by tapping a quill icon embedded in the text. For instance, you learn how students arrived at Hogwarts before train service began: Some rode on broomsticks, but that was tough with trunks and pets to bring along.
There aren’t many annotations, though. You get more backstory at the Pottermore site, but you need the e-books for the full text.
The books also get new digital covers to reflect each book’s theme — serpents for the second book, for instance. Artists also designed a new font with each letter incorporating a lightning bolt — the shape of a scar on Harry’s forehead. This font — named Fluffy, for a three-headed dog in the first book — is used for the opening letter of each chapter.
The books cost $10 each, or $70 for the series. There’s no discount if you already own standard electronic editions. English editions are available in the U.S. and 31 other markets right away. Editions in French, German and Spanish are coming Nov. 9.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a demand letter to a Catholic hospital in Michigan on behalf of a pregnant woman with a life-threatening brain tumor who was denied a request to get her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled C-section next month.
Jessica Mann, who is 34 weeks pregnant, was denied the procedure by Genesys Hospital because of religiously based rules that dictate hospital policy.
Mann’s doctor highly recommends that she has no further children due to the strain the pregnancy will pose to her health because of her brain tumor.
Although her doctor requested a medical exception to the general prohibition on sterilization procedures at Genesys a few months ago, the woman was just informed that the request would not be granted. Having a tubal after Mann recovers from the C-section in several weeks is also not recommended because that would also require another round of life-threatening full anesthesia and surgery.
“Although everyone has a right to practice their religion as they see fit, religion cannot be used to harm others, which is what is happening here,” said Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. “Jessica Mann and every person who goes into the hospital seeking medical care should not have to worry that religious beliefs rather than medical judgment will dictate what care they receive.”
Genesys Hospital is part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic healthcare system in the country. The facility is governed by religious rules called the Ethical and Religious Directives, which are written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and that classify common reproductive health procedures as “intrinsically evil.”
“I should be able to focus on getting ready for my baby, not having to fight a hospital for treatment in my last trimester of pregnancy,” said Jessica Mann. “I want to make sure that not only myself but that other women are able to get the medical treatment that they need.”
Tubal ligation, known familiarly as “getting one’s tubes tied,” is the contraception method of choice for more than 30 percent of U.S. married women of reproductive age. An estimated 600,000 women undergo this procedure each year. For women who want a tubal ligation, performing it at the time of a C-Section is recommended practice and is the standard of care.
Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the United States are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.
In some destinations, tourist areas are located far from the rhythms of everyday life. But visitors who wander through Old Havana — Habana Vieja, as locals call it — can’t help but get a sense of how ordinary Cubans live.
You’ll see uniformed school children, street vendors selling colorful fruits and peppers from carts, clotheslines hung from patios, and small dogs sunning themselves on sidewalks. There are lines at government-run offices for phone service and banking, and bicycle taxis ferrying passengers through the narrow streets. You might hear a rooster crow, a caged songbird, salsa music or the engine of an old car roaring as it trundles past. Watch out for pipes jutting from windows: Water may pour out from housework being done inside.
Nearly every street seems to have a sign attesting to something of cultural or historic significance. O’Reilly Street, for example, named for an Irishman who became a leader in the Spanish colonies and married into a prominent Cuban family, bears a plaque with a rather poetic allusion to the histories of Ireland and Cuba: “Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope.”
Many buildings are terribly rundown. It’s not unusual to see the sky through a roofless stone facade or piles of rubble in the street. But other sites have been beautifully restored, especially around the squares in the eastern half of the neighborhood bordering the water. Spend a few hours walking through Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco and Cathedral Square. Many museums and other attractions are located here, including the Museum of Rum, which offers visitors a swig at the end of the tour, and the Ambos Mundos Hotel, which has an excellent short tour of a room where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote.
Another cluster of major attractions is located in the western half of the neighborhood, near the Prado or Paseo de Marti, a boulevard that divides Old Havana from Central Havana. The Prado itself is worth a stroll, especially on Sundays when it hosts an outdoor art market. Adjacent to the Prado is the Parque Central (Central Park), home to a statue of revolutionary hero Jose Marti. A block over, between Agramonte and Avenida de Las Misiones (Belgica), you’ll find the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, with extraordinary collections of Cuban art in one building and international art in another, and the Museo de la Revolucion, with a tank and the famous boat “Granma” used by Fidel Castro outdoors and a wall of cartoons inside called “Cretins’ Corner” mocking American presidents Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes.
Watch out for hustlers near the Parque Central. Resist all invitations from overly friendly strangers who invite you to a bar or to buy cigars. But if you need a drink, choices abound, including a trio of historic spots. Hemingway frequented El Floridita (located at Obispo No. 557) and La Boguedita del Medio (Empedrado No. 207), while Sloppy Joe’s, where the messy ground beef concoction supposedly was invented, was a setting for the movie “Our Man in Havana,” based on the Graham Greene novel about a bumbling spy.
But more enjoyable than the tourist crowds and watery mojitos at La Bodeguita are the relaxed outdoor cafes in the old squares on the other side of Habana Vieja. Nothing is lovelier than sipping a Cristal beer in Plaza San Francisco or Plaza Vieja in early evening, when the day’s heat dissipates and sweet sounds from a three-piece band playing “Guantanamera” drift across the square.
In the more than two decades since world leaders first got together to try to solve global warming, life on Earth has changed, not just the climate. It’s gotten hotter, more polluted with heat-trapping gases, more crowded and just downright wilder.
The numbers are stark. Carbon dioxide emissions: up 60 percent. Global temperature: up six-tenths of a degree. Population: up 1.7 billion people. Sea level: up 3 inches. U.S. extreme weather: up 30 percent. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica: down 4.9 trillion tons of ice.
“Simply put, we are rapidly remaking the planet and beginning to suffer the consequences,” says Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.
Diplomats from more than 190 nations opened talks Monday at a United Nations global warming conference in Lima, Peru, to pave the way for an international treaty they hope to forge next year.
To see how much the globe has changed since the first such international conference – the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – The Associated Press scoured databases from around the world. The analysis, which looked at data since 1983, concentrated on 10-year intervals ending in 1992 and 2013. This is because scientists say single years can be misleading and longer trends are more telling.
Our changing world by the numbers:
Since 1992, there have been more than 6,600 major climate, weather and water disasters worldwide, causing more than $1.6 trillion in damage and killing more than 600,000 people, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium, which tracks the world’s catastrophes.
While climate-related, not all can be blamed on man-made warming or climate change. Still, extreme weather has noticeably increased over the years, says Debby Sapir, who runs the center and its database. From 1983 to 1992 the world averaged 147 climate, water and weather disasters each year. Over the past 10 years, that number has jumped to an average 306 a year.
In the United States, an index of climate extremes – hot and cold, wet and dry – kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has jumped 30 percent from 1992 to 2013, not counting hurricanes, based on 10-year averages.
NOAA also keeps track of U.S. weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion, when adjusted for inflation. Since 1992, there have been 136 such billion-dollar events.
Worldwide, the 10-year average for weather-related losses adjusted for inflation was $30 billion a year from 1983-92, according to insurance giant Swiss Re. From 2004 to 2013, the cost was more than three times that on average, or $131 billion a year.
Sapir and others say it would be wrong to pin all, or even most, of these increases on climate change alone. Population and poverty are major factors, too. But they note a trend of growing extremes and more disasters, and that fits with what scientists have long said about global warming.
It’s this increase that’s “far scarier” than the simple rise in temperatures, University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles says.
It’s almost a sure thing that 2014 will go down as the hottest year in 135 years of record keeping, meteorologists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center say. If so, this will be the sixth time since 1992 that the world set or tied a new annual record for the warmest year.
The globe has broken six monthly heat records in 2014 and 47 since 1992. The last monthly cold record set was in 1916.
So the average annual temperature for 2014 is on track to be about 58.2 degrees (14.6 degrees Celsius), compared with 57.4 degrees (14.1 degrees Celsius) in 1992. The past 10 years have averaged a shade below 58.1 degrees (nearly 14.5 degrees Celsius) – six-tenths of a degree warmer than the average between 1983 and 1992.
The world’s oceans have risen by about 3 inches since 1992 and gotten a tad more acidic – by about half a percent – thanks to chemical reactions caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide, scientists at NOAA and the University of Colorado say.
Every year sea ice cover shrinks to a yearly minimum size in the Arctic in September – a measurement that is considered a key climate change indicator. From 1983 to 1992, the lowest it got on average was 2.62 million square miles. Now the 10-year average is down to 1.83 million square miles, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
That loss – an average 790,000 square miles since 1992 – overshadows the slight gain in sea ice in Antarctica, which has seen an average gain of 110,000 square miles of sea ice over the past 22 years.
The world’s population in 1992 was 5.46 billion. Today, it’s nearly a third higher, at 7.18 billion. That means more carbon pollution and more people who could be vulnerable to global warming.
The effects of climate change can be seen in harsher fire seasons. Wildfires in the western United States burned an average of 2.7 million acres each year between 1983 and 1992; now that’s up to 7.3 million acres from 1994 to 2013, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
And some of the biggest climate change effects on land are near the poles, where people don’t often see them. From 1992 to 2011, Greenland’s ice sheet lost 3.35 trillion tons of ice, according to calculations made by scientists using measurements from NASA’s GRACE satellite. Antarctica lost 1.56 trillion tons of ice over the same period.
Scientists simply point to greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, that form a heat-trapping blanket in our air.
There’s no need to average the yearly amount of carbon dioxide pollution: It has increased steadily, by 60 percent, from 1992 to 2013. In 1992, the world spewed 24.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide; now it is 39.8 billion, according to the Global Carbon Project, an international consortium.
China has tripled its emissions from 3 billion tons to 11 billion tons a year. The emissions from the U.S. have gone up more slowly, about 6 percent, from 5.4 billion tons to 5.8 billion tons. India also has tripled its emissions, from 860 million tons to 2.6 billion tons. Only European countries have seen their emissions go down, from 4.5 billion tons to 3.8 billion tons.
WHAT SCIENTISTS SAY
“Overall, what really strikes me is the missed opportunity,” Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, said in an email.
“We knew by the early 1990s that global warming was coming, yet we have done essentially nothing to head off the risk. I think that future generations may be justifiably angry about this.”
“The numbers don’t lie,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State. “Greenhouse gases are rising steadily and the cause is fossil fuel burning and other human activities. The globe is warming, ice is melting and our climate is changing as a result.”
Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement on Nov. 16, saying it’s a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity when in fact it’s a sin against God and creation.
Francis made the comments to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.
Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as ‘’reprehensible” the assisted suicide of an American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.
Francis didn’t refer to the Maynard case specifically.
While denouncing euthanasia in general, he also condemned abortion, in vitro fertilization (or “the scientific production of a child”) and embryonic stem cell research (or “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”)
“This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”
While shying away from hot-button, culture war issues such as abortion, Francis has spoken out frequently about euthanasia. He considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as useless drains on society.
Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life, even if it requires resorting to conscientious objection.
“You will of course have read in the press what a catastrophe has overtaken our country, a catastrophe which has upset our whole life, which formerly ran so smoothly.”
The catastrophe mentioned is the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938; the passage comes from Paul Strnad, a Jewish resident of Prague who wrote it in a letter to his cousin Alvin, living in Milwaukee. In that letter, Paul asks for his cousin’s help in obtaining documents to emigrate from their home to the United States. He lovingly extols the virtues of his wife Hedy, a successful dressmaker they hoped could secure employment across the Atlantic.
That hope was ultimately not to be — despite Alvin’s efforts, Paul and Hedy were among the 11 million killed during the Holocaust. But their story lives on because this letter and subsequent correspondence were discovered in a Milwaukee home years later. The letters have passed into the collection of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
Among the correspondence are a series of Hedy Strnad’s dress designs, now part of the museum’s permanent collection — and the inspiration for its latest temporary exhibition: Stitching History from the Holocaust. After a visitor suggested using Strnad’s designs to create real dresses, the museum’s education director Ellie Gettinger says, the museum partnered with the Milwaukee Rep’s costume shop to do just that, giving life to eight of her ensembles.
Strnad was a woman of her time, as her designs demonstrate. The crisp skirt suits, daytime dresses and evening gown included in the exhibition feature tailored lines of 1930s elegance.
The Rep’s costume shop faced a unique problem in creating the outfits, because the drawings only depicted front views. That required the costumers to independently ascertain what types of fabric and sewing details would most authentically present the designer’s original vision. Their meticulous craftwork is visible in the results, with outfits made of hand-printed and silkscreened fabrics, fabric-covered buttons and period-appropriate accessories.
The number of pieces on display is relatively small, but the museum’s installation is richly packed with historical information about the Strnads and their lives under the Nazi regime. It’s a sobering reminder of one of the world’s most horrendous atrocities and an opportunity to contemplate the ramifications of genocide, war and violence.
One of the most poignant details, though largely unseen, is the label each outfit bears. The costumers reproduced Strnad’s signature from a short note in one of her husband’s letters, marking each as a “Hedy original” in her own handwriting.
When she signed her name on that note so many decades ago, she didn’t know what the future held for her, her husband or her work. Her life may have been cut short, but this exhibition offers a small chance to repair her lost potential, one stitch at a time.
AUTUMN GALLERY NIGHT & Day: Oct. 17-18
It is time once again for the quarterly art festival known as Gallery Night. More than 60 venues will participate this month, including promising exhibitions from the galleries below. A full schedule for the evening may be found at historicthirdward.org.
Independent Phrases & Subordinate Clauses Oct. 17 through Dec. 6
Friday is the opening night of this show featuring photographic works by Dane Haman, Jon Horvath, and Tom Zust, curated by John Sobczak. Haman’s eye captures odd angles from daily life, presenting moments such as a man washing a car windshield and an arrangement of remote controls. Horvath’s color photographs fixate on the rich hues of architecture and infrastructure. And Zust’s tonal palette tends toward a slightly more austere, richly minimalist aesthetic. At Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St.
Jules Cheret Through Oct. 25
Those with a taste for the fin-de-siècle elegance of French posters should visit the DeLind Gallery for an up-close look at works by one of the foremost poster artists of the period, Jules Cheret. His large-scale pieces advertising the pleasures of nightlife, as well as his original drawings and lithographs, will be on view. At DeLind Gallery of Fine Art, 450 E. Mason St.
Coalition of Photographic Arts: Celebrating 10 Years of Fine Art Photography Oct. 17-18
CoPA is a diverse coalition of photographers working in varied subjects and styles, but all demonstrate a fixation for the camera lens. This exhibition surveys their current endeavors and often offers much to consider about the way we picture art and life. At 600 E. Mason St., Suite 200.
Fall Into Art Oct. 17-Nov. 30
This group exhibition features something of everything, with four contributing artists presenting fashion designs, paintings, illustrations and photography. At Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, 1110 N. Market St., 2nd Floor.
Stitching History from the Holocaust is on view through Feb. 28 at Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N. Prospect Ave. Admission is free during museum hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Visit jewishmuseummilwaukee.org.
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The openly gay aide credited with saving the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says he’s not a hero.
In a CNN interview with Daniel Hernandez, 20, he credited emergency responders with saving Giffords’ life and said she and other public servants are the real heroes.
“It just makes me happy that I was able to help her in any way that I could,” Hernandez told CNN.
Hernandez was serving as an intern to Giffords when she was shot in the head during a public meeting with constituents on Jan. 8 in front of a Tucson grocery store.
Many people have branded Hernandez a hero for his bravery and quick thinking in the moments following the tragedy, which took six lives and wounded 12. During a speech on Jan. 11, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer requested – and got – a standing ovation for Hernandez.
Hernandez is openly gay and a member of the City of Tucson Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. A student at the University of Arizona, he had begun working for Giffords only five days before the shooting.
Hernandez recounted on ABC’s “This Week” how he’d used smocks from the grocery store to bandage the wounded victims and used his hand to apply pressure to the entry wound on Giffords’ forehead.
“Once I saw that she was down and there were more than one victim, I went ahead and started doing the limited triage that I could with what I had … checking for pulses and then … covering and applying pressure to the wounds.
“I had to lift up the congresswoman because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe OK because there was so much blood,” he said.
“The congresswoman was alert. She was able to hold my hand when I asked her if she could hear me. I wasn’t able to get any words from her.”
State Rep. Matt Heinz, who is also a physician at University Medical Center where Giffords was taken, told the Arizona Republic that the quick reaction of Hernandez probably saved the congresswoman’s life.
After hearing on NPR that Giffords had died, Hernandez said he was “ecstatic” to learn later that she was still alive.
“She was one of the people I’ve looked up to,” he said. “Knowing she was alive and still fighting was good news. She’s definitely a fighter, whether for her own life, or standing up for people in southern Arizona.”