Nightly News   |  January 15, 2011

‘All I saw was chaos’: Tucson first responders describe scene

The earliest firefighters and paramedics on the scene recount their frantic first minutes outside the Safeway grocery store. NBC’s Lee Cowan reports.

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

>>> the first medics to arrive at the scene of last saturday's shooting are now publicly telling their stories in a race to save lives.

>> reporter: it was station 33, less than three miles from that safeway , that got the call first.

>> 911, what's your emergency?

>> there is a shooting at safeway .

>> reporter: paramedic tony compagno just two hours into the shift.

>> all i saw was chaos. people on the ground. when i got up there my mind went a little blank for a while.

>> reporter: it was shocking. he counted four dead right off the bat. he had two priorities. first congresswoman giffords.

>> we all know where she was shot and she was the only one with that kind of an injury that was alive.

>> reporter: at her side intern daniel hernandez told paramedic nicole jackson he refused to leave.

>> reporter: any helping hand was valuable. attention then turned to little 9-year-old christina taylor green. cpr was under way. but her condition, tony feared was --

>> not good.

>> reporter: refusing to give up, he dispatched two other paramedics to christina's side, who found themselves fighting thoughts of their own children back home.

>> it just makes you have sorry for the family and makes you realize what you have.

>> reporter: within minutes, the victims were on their way to the trauma center . but for those paramedics, their day didn't end there.

>> we were up three times after midnight that night running other calls.

>> reporter: and amid all of that, tony says his heart was still all the way back at that safeway parking lot. not only with those who they know that they did help but also with the families of those who they could not.

>> but i want them to know we did everything in our power to do what we could.

>> reporter: gabrielle giffords ' recovery is testament