Video: Hileman: 'Christina, don't you die on me'

  1. Closed captioning of: Hileman: 'Christina, don't you die on me'

    >>> and now to the emotional time we spent here earlier today with suzi hileman. if you don't know her name right off, she is the woman who brought her 9-year-old neighbor and friend to meet her congresswoman that morning at the supermarket. suzi hileman was shot three times and is recovering, but 9-year-old christina taylor green didn't survive. suzi hileman is dealing with that while building her own body back up. she's a strong woman , smart and quick. she's a new yorker, ivy league educated, with a strong family and a long road ahead. what you're about to hear is at times heart-breaking as she talks with us, along with her husband, bill, about survival and loss.

    >> congresswoman giffords is shaking hands with the people in front of us and talking. i said, okay, you have your question, you know what you're going to say. she goes yeah, yeah, yeah. i said christina , let's do the math. how many senators do we have? hold that number. how many representatives do we have? add that number. hold that number. let's add the president and the vice president. you got that number? that's the number of people who make the laws that tell us how we live here in america today. and you are going to get to shake her hand. wow, gunshot.

    >> that was the last thing. [ crying ]

    >> there's a moment of deafening silence, does that make sense? people -- there was no doubt that this was a noise i had never heard before. congresswoman giffords slid down with the flags behind her.

    >> did you see loughner? the gunman?

    >> he's not in my space. i don't -- he who should be slapped. i need a name. i am having a hard time labeling my emotions. right now my space is christina and me.

    >> at this point in time, the mug shot and everything else about it is not going to be part of our space.

    >> his face comes on the tv screen and if somebody doesn't change it, i put my hand up like that. i can't --

    >> there's a parking lot, there's a vinyl banner, congress on your corner, the seal of congress of the united states , flags. congresswoman is under the plastic table. and all these characters we have now come to know.

    >> hear us, hear us. there was a fabulous ball, 30, 40 something pima county s.w.a.t. team officers who told me to lie down and put my leg up because, ma'am, you're bleeding. yeah, of that i am aware. the next thing i remember, so there's that memory, there's that memory. i have snippets. pieces are gone.

    >> some may come back.

    >> let's hope good ones. the next thing i remember is i'm lying on the concrete and christina is to my left. and she was beautiful. she was undamaged. and she didn't talk. but we were eyeball to eyeball. and i'm yelling at her, christina taylor green, don't you die on me. don't you go away from me girl friend . don't leave me to do this by myself. stay here. christina , christina taylor green. and she's looking at me. and it was -- she was wondering, she was confused, she was asking me what is going on, and i'm just telling her to stay with me. do not leave me here by myself, young lady . and then someone, a big, calm but definitely pay attention to this voice, lady, legs, khaki legs came between us and said "ma'am, we are -- christina is being taken care of." she, because they didn't know her name then. she is being taken care of, your friend is being taken care of. you are bleeding. your job is to stay calm and let us help you. and i was worried about where is my purse, where is my wallet, where is my wallet. who knows why you think of these things, and how is christina . where is christina . i was responsible for her. it was my job to bring her home to her mom and dad . i took christina taylor green on january 8th , 2011 , to see gabrielle giffords , and i said to christina , that could be you. there is no reason on god's green earth that you can't grow up and be that if that's what you want to be.

    >> it was a very tough conversation, and there will be more of our interview with suzi hileman and her husband on "dateline" this coming sunday night at 7:00/6:00 central.

NBC News
updated 1/21/2011 8:00:42 PM ET 2011-01-22T01:00:42

The Tucson woman who escorted a 9-year-old girl to a Jan. 8 political gathering where both were shot pleaded with the child to stay alive as both lay bleeding in a supermarket parking lot.

"Christina-Taylor Green, don't you die on me," Suzi Hileman told NBC News Anchor Brian Williams, recalling her words to the wounded child in an exclusive interview in Tucson on Friday. Hileman said she locked eyes with Christina and demanded that the child hang on. "Don't you go away from me, girlfriend, you stay."

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A portion of the interview aired Friday on Nightly News, with the full interview to be broadcast on Dateline at 7 p.m. EST Sunday.

Video: Giffords leaves Tucson hospital

Hileman said that since the massacre, which left 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and six dead, including Christina, she has been consumed by grief and loss.

She and her husband, Bill Hileman, expressed gratitude to their neighbors and the residents of Tucson for their care and words of comfort.

"The level of support that has come out is like a tidal wave," Bill Hileman said. Neighbors cared for the couple's house and lawn. People made sure they had enough to eat while Bill Hileman stayed by his wife's side at the hospital. He described encountering a "cascade of food in front of my front door that you couldn't get in." Donations were so many that some went to benefit the local food banks and shelters, he said.

'I breathe through it'
The road to recovery is long and sometimes painful.

"We're all suffering from P.T.S.D.," Suzi Hileman said. "You get a shot up the middle of you and all of a sudden I'm back in the Safeway parking lot. And I really don't need to have that feeling."

"So, I inhale and I breathe through it," she said.

The shooting suspect, Jared Loughner, remained in federal custody Friday in Phoenix. Investigators have described him as an increasingly mentally unstable man kicked out of a community college last year.

He apparently became obsessed with inflicting violence on Giffords since attending one of her campaign events in 2007.

Giffords, who was shot in the head, was moved from a Tucson hospital to a Houston rehabilitation center on Friday.

Hileman, 58, had taken Christina, a neighbor whom she considered a grandchild, to the "Congress on Your Corner" event to meet Giffords. Christina was a newly elected member of the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School in Tucson.

Hileman said both looked forward to the outing.

The pair, hand-in-hand, made their way through the Safeway parking lot, signed in at the counter and then sat down in folding chairs.

"Congresswoman Giffords came out. And she's stunning. And she's put together," Hileman said. "So, we commented on her clothes and her accessories, because that was where we were. And then the line moved up and forward."

The two watched and waited while the congresswoman shook hands with people in front of the line.

"And I said, 'OK, you have your question. You know what you're going to say?' She goes, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.' So, I needed to take a breath. So, I said, 'All right, Christina, let's do the math.' Christina did math.

"How many Senators do we have? How many? Hold that number. How many representatives do we have? Add that number. Let's add the president and the vice president. You got that number? That's the number of people who make the laws that tell us how we live here in America today. And you are going to get to shake her hand."

Then a gunshot rang out, she recalled.

“There's a moment of deafening silence,” she said. “Congresswoman Giffords slid down with the flags behind her.”

Interactive: Giffords' shooting

"Next thing I remember is, I'm lying on the concrete — and Christina's to my left. And she was beautiful. She was undamaged. And she didn't talk, but we were eyeball to eyeball. And I'm yelling at her, 'Christina-Taylor Green, don't you die on me," Hileman said. "And she's looking at me, and it was — she was wondering, she was confused, she was asking me, 'What is going on?' And I'm just telling her to 'Stay with me, do not leave me here by myself, young lady.' "

Hileman had been shot three times and suffered a broken hip. Christina was the youngest of the six slain. She died at the hospital.

Hileman said amid the chaos, someone spoke to her and had reassured her about her charge.

"'She is being taken care of. Your friend is being taken care of. Your job is — you are bleeding, you are bleeding! Your job is to stay calm and let us help you,'" Hileman recounted.

Among other topics Hileman addressed in the interview:

On Tucson: "It's a cultural stew. Waiting in the DMV with the Native American lady and the Hispanic lady and the gray-haired Jewish lady. And the baby cries. Everybody's in the diaper bag helping and then everybody's back to their books. Tucson. Tucson makes it possible to be whoever you want to be."

On Christina-Taylor Green: “Christina liked me, I hope. And I know I liked her. She was one of those bright-eyed, open to the world, high self-esteem kids,” Hileman said. “Her parents did a fabulous job.  With unbelievably wonderful raw material. She had the most fabulous skin. She had those eyes. And she just wanted to listen.  Whatever we talked about. She was up for anything."

Call to attend event: "Tucson's a small enough town that you can pretty much meet anybody any time that you want. No, I got a robo-call on my phone. 'Hi, this is Gabby Giffords. Come to Safeway tomorrow and tell me how we can make government work better for you.' Well, I'd been sending her emails all along. Telling her, because, you know, I'm a girl from New York. I know how things should go."

On Giffords:
"I wish her well."

© 2013  Reprints

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: US Senate holds hearing on Gun Control
    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (26) Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
  2. Image:
    Morry Gash / AP
    Slideshow (45) Mourning follows deadly shooting in Arizona

Gallery: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims


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