Nightly News   |  January 10, 2011

Two heroes return to the scene of tragedy

David Hernandez, Jr., who had just begun an internship with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords five days earlier, and retired Army Colonel William Badger recall the critical moments after they rushed to aid the victims in Saturday's deadly shooting. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> you saw president obama leading that moment of silence earlier in our broadcast. he also spoke today about the shootings, and at one point he singled out a few of those who played a heroic role in saturday's shooting.

>> i think it's important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events. a 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss. a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage. the citizens who wrestled down the gunman.

>> that 20-year-old congressional intern the president was talking about, the college student , was daniel hernandez , credited by many for saving the congresswoman's life by jumping in and applying direct pressure to her wounds and cradling her body, not letting her lose consciousness. late today he received a standing ovation for his heroism during the arizona governor 's state of the state address in phoenix. and earlier today, he had returned to the scene behind us here with us and talked about what those critical minutes were like when he cared for his wounded boss while waiting for an ambulance.

>> my main goal was not only to keep her engaged but also to keep her calm as much as could be done in that type of situation. because obviously she was in tremendous amounts of pain. but letting her know that i was going to be contacting her husband, mark kelly , as well as her family members to let them know what happened seemed to give her some comfort, and when i mentioned their names, she kind of held my hand and squeezed a little tighter than when i was talking about others.

>> the picture of you on the front page of "the new york times," walking with the gurney, that's the congresswoman, isn't it?

>> yes. i was at that point just trying to make sure she had the emotional support she needed, because her medical needs were being taken care of and i wanted to make sure she knew she wasn't on her own and she wasn't going to be in a situation she would have to be alone at any point.

>> what if it turns out that the day you were really needed to be on planet earth happened when you were 20?

>> then i'll be glad that i was there.

>> at the scene, we also met up today with retired army colonel william badger . he came to this shopping center saturday morning to talk with his congresswoman. he ended up helping to hold down the gunman and he carries a fresh bullet wound on the back of his head where one of the shots grazed him.

>> and all of a sudden i heard bang, bang, bang, bang. when the shooting stopped, i got up. but i didn't realize it, but the shooter was as close as you are in front of me walking by in front of me with somebody and picked up one of the folding chaired, folded it up and they hit him with this chair and he went down like this. when his left arm came out, i was able to grab it with my left hand . i grabbed his wrist. and when i grabbed his wrist, i was able to come down with this hand right on his back and together, another individual, you know, every bit as old as i am, grabbed him on the other side, and had his right arm and just like this, we took this guy right to the ground. but i never did serve in combat.

>> don't feel bad about that.

>> reporter: i didn't serve in vietnam.

>> but the point is, of course, all your years in service to the united states army , you come out a colonel. you come here to retire in tucson, arizona, and you get hit by a round at the safeway. what does that tell you? is there a bigger lesson in that?

>> well, there is a bigger lesson in that. you know, something has to be done with what's going on in the united states and in arizona in our country.

>> daniel hernandez and bill badger, just two of the people who stepped up, came forward on a saturday morning, and we can safely say people are alive tonight because of the actions of both of those men.