Daniel Hernandez, Jr. was the right man in the right place at the right time.  Just five days into his internship for Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, the 20-year old college student was checking people into Rep. Gifford’s “Congress on Your Corner” event when the shooting started.

According to Arizona Republic, Hernandez started assisting victims before the shooting even stopped.

When the shots began that morning, he saw many people lying on the ground, including a young girl. Some were bleeding. Hernandez said he moved from person to person checking pulses.

“First the neck, then the wrist,” he said. One man was already dead. Then he saw Giffords. She had fallen and was lying contorted on the sidewalk. She was bleeding.

Using his hand, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on her forehead. He pulled her into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. [snip]

Hernandez used his hand to apply pressure until someone from inside Safeway brought him clean smocks from the meat department. He used them to apply pressure on the entrance wound, unaware there was an exit wound. He never let go of her.

He stayed with Giffords until paramedics arrived. They strapped her to a board and loaded her into an ambulance. Hernandez climbed in with her. On the ride to the hospital, he held her hand. She squeezed his back.

Hernandez’s immediate actions probably saved her life, a hospital physician said.

Daniel is a Latino man.  According to Dallas Voice, Daniel is also gay and a member of the City of Tucson Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

Like Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who helped thwart the plans of the 911 hijackers on Flight 93, and like the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender soldiers still serving in silence in our military under threat of expulsion, Daniel’s actions remind us that LGBT Americans are actively serving society.  A society that is over 90% heterosexual.

Like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez and Speaker of the California Assembly John Pérez, Daniel’s actions remind us that Latino Americans are actively serving society at large, a society that is 85% non-Latino.

Andrés Duque from Blabbeando so beautifully encapsulates the significance of Daniel Hernandez’s actions to the Latino and LGBT communities:

Of course, from the accounts, Daniel is a hero regardless of whether he’s Latino or gay or Irish or purple.

But it’s striking that in a state that has unfortunately become a national standard-bearer for some of the worst xenophobic sentiments in the current political climate, it IS a Latino man who happens to be gay who decided to stay by Congresswoman’s Giffords’ side and might very well have saved her life.

I can’t help but be moved at how such a selfless gesture can cut straight through all those efforts to demonize Latinos – or gays – specially in light of recent events in Arizona.