by David Mendez
On January 8, 2011, the morning Gabby Giffords was shot, then-20-year-old intern Daniel Hernandez rushed to her side to apply pressure to her wound and watch over her until paramedics arrived. Credited with saving her life, he was commended for his bravery by President Obama.
Now a published author and member of the Sunnyside School District Governing Board, Hernandez references that time in a moving letter written to himself, as a part of CBS's "Note to Self" series. Watch the video segment below, broadcast earlier today on CBS This Morning, or read the text of the letter below the jump.
At the age of 5 you've decided what you want to do with the rest of your life. You want to help people. You enjoy school and love politics. You're ambitious but you really have no reason to be. You are young, gay and Latino, born to a struggling working class family in Tucson, Arizona. I just want to let you know now that things will not go according to plan but in the end everything will work out and you will still be able to help people.
You have many lessons to learn in a short amount of time. You'll learn that you're smarter than people give you credit for — but not as smart as you think you are. You'll learn that living a life trying to make others happy will only succeed in making you unhappy. You'll learn to accept what makes you different instead of trying to fight to fit in.
You're determined to be a doctor because you want to help people. You start training to be a nurse. But as you grow up you become a little bit more interested in politics. You meet a vibrant and intelligent woman named Gabrielle Giffords. She is a member of Congress but more importantly she is someone who helps people. You'll realize from her that being a voice for those who can't speak for themselves can be just as meaningful and just as important as a set of stitches or pair of crutches.
On a bright and chilly morning in January 2011, your entire life will change. It will be less than 19 seconds but in that time a young man armed with a semi-automatic weapon will shoot 19 people - killing 6 and injuring 13 others - including your friends: Ron, Gabe and Gabby.
You run into the gunfire, trying to help people, using the skills you learned. And in the end you will be credited with saving Gabby's life.
This will be the worst day of your life. It's going to be painful, long and scary - but you're going to be OK. And at the end of it will be through this tragedy that you will find your voice.
Public service and helping your community is not defined by one job or profession but it's instead about about finding what drives you, your passion and using it to help others.
You'll be praised by a president, meet your heroine, face your own mortality even.
When they call you a hero you're finally going to realize that you don't need to be a doctor to help others.