Tucson shooting survivors honor UMC staff; Heroes award to Hernandez

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- When someone saves your life, it seems there just aren't enough ways to say thank you.

Victims from the January 8 shooting made that clear Thursday at a celebration for the staff at University Medical Center.

Nearly half a year later and the front lawn outside UMC looks a lot different.  The memorials, the media, they're long gone.

But one part of january 8 that 's still very present, the bond between the doctors, nurses and the shooting victims they saved.

So many moments from the january 8 shooting tucsonans want to forget.

"Everyone was very frightened, everyone was on edge, ya know what just happened? There was such shock and disbelief," said UMC Dir. Of Trauma and Emergency Services Michelle Ziemba.

But in times of tragedy, heroes arise.

"I'm only here because of them," said shooting victim Suzi Hileman.

For Hileman, those heroes wear white coats and work at University Medical Center.


There was a celebration thursday at umc to say thank you to those doctors and nurses. But for them, nothing says it more than just seeing their patients healthy.

"Now to see everyone smiling, happy, celebrating their recovery, I think is really just a special opportunity for all of us, to help us heal from that event as well,"said Ziemba.

For many UMC staffers Thursday was the first chance to see their former patients post-recovery.

"I think it's awesome. It's awesome!  Without a walker!  Without anything, just feet," said Hileman's nurse Jerene Stremick.

The bond between them still strong.

The road to recovery is not over yet.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering in Houston.  Suzi Hileman says she's still undergoing physical therapy, but can't thank the staff at UMC enough.

And the intern who tended to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' after she was shot has another honor to add to his list.

The U.S. Surgeon General presented Daniel Hernandez with the Heroes Award.

Hernandez held his hand over Giffords' gunshot wound and elevated her head just moments after the mass shooting at a Tucson Safeway in January.