Tales of heroism amidst tragedy

TALES OF HEROISM AMIDST TRAGEDY…. As horrific as the scene in Tucson was on Saturday, I find it worthwhile to take note of heroic moments from the same tragedy.

We talked yesterday, for example, about Daniel Hernandez, a 20-year-old intern who joined Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) staff just last week, who applied pressure to the congresswoman’s head wound and held her upright so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. Hernandez may have very well saved Giffords’ life.

But there were other extraordinary moments, too.

Within seconds after the shooting began, at least one man who was grazed by a bullet grabbed the gunman, a middle-aged woman snatched ammunition away from him, and a group of people held him down while another man grabbed the gun out of his hand, a man and a woman who helped subdue the shooter told CNN Sunday.

There are some competing details among those who were there, which under the circumstances, is entirely understandable. But the general version of events is still pretty amazing.

Patricia Maisch was waiting in line to get a picture with her congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, when gunfire erupted. Blood was spilling onto the pavement in an atmosphere of panic and pandemonium. The gunman was walking towards her, shooting people along the way. “I thought I was next,” she said.

His ammunition spent, the assailant stopped to reload, the authorities said, inserting a 31-round clip into the chamber of his Glock semiautomatic pistol before raising the gun again.

And in what was perhaps the only fortunate event of the day, the spring on the second clip failed. Two other men in the crowd lunged at the gunman and tackled him to the ground, and Ms. Maisch, responding to shouts from the crowd, grabbed the empty gun clip.

One wants to think that, during a crisis, they’d have the wherewithal to keep it together and exercise sharp judgment. But under the circumstances, I’m pretty damn impressed by the folks whose grace under pressure Saturday almost certainly prevented a deadly tragedy from being even worse.