Stories of heroism and compassion amid shooting tragedy

Rachel Rose Hartman
Penny Wilson and Angela Robinson
Penny Wilson and Angela Robinson

Suzie Hileman, who sustained three gunshot wounds in Saturday's attack in Tucson, Ariz., isn't fully cognizant of recent events due to pain medication but has been crying out for her 9-year-old neighbor in her sleep.

Hileman and neighbor Christina Green were holding hands waiting to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Saturday when shots were fired. Hileman survived the attack. Green did not.

Hileman's husband, Bill, speaking Tuesday at a press conference to update the public on the status of the shooting victims, said that he has been overwhelmed by the Greens' compassion for his wife amid their own devastating loss. "The graciousness that that couple has shown, given the tragedy that they experienced, is unlike anything I've ever experienced, " he said.

Watch Hileman's comments here:

(Video courtesy ABC News)

Six people were killed and 14 injured in the attack at the parking-lot gathering for Giffords, who remains in critical condition. But amid the tragedy, the victims' families have offered stories of compassion and heroism.

[Related: Loughner's parents 'devastated' by son's rampage]

As shots were fired, 76-year-old Dorwin Stoddard used himself as a shield to protect his wife -- a woman whom he had known since grade school.

"He covered my mom with his own body," Stoddard's step-daughter Penny Wilson said.

"We would like to compliment the hero that lie in our father," Stoddard's other step-daughter, Angela Robinson, said Tuesday. "It brings the hero out in all of us in times of tragedy."

Wilson and Robinson tell their story here:

(Video courtesy ABC News)

Stoddard and his wife, Mavy, were boyfriend and girlfriend in grade school. After losing their spouses, they reunited and married 15 years ago.

Stoddard's step-daughters said that Mavy Stoddard was apparently unaware she had been shot until she reached the hospital. She is expected to survive, but her husband did not.

"It's a beautiful way to say goodbye, to go home," Robinson added.

[Related: Former White House aide found dead in charred car]

The nation has been gripped by Saturday's tragedy, for which suspected gunman Jared Loughner has offered no motive. Giffords was shot in the head at close range and remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday.

The congresswoman's survival may have hinged on the heroism of her intern, Daniel Hernandez, a junior at the University of Arizona who had been on staff just five days at the time of Saturday's shooting. When shots were fired, Hernandez rushed to the congresswoman's side and began applying pressure to her wounds and directing others to care for the wounded using his limited knowledge of triage emergency-care techniques.

Another hero that day was Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old woman who risked her life to grab a magazine of ammunition away from the shooter and prevented him from reloading his gun.

The victims' families thanked hospital staff, the community, the FBI and others for their support.

Hileman said he has been struck by the goodwill following the tragedy. He explained that he learned of the incident from an anonymous caller on the scene, had a stranger clasp his hand in a prayer that he believes has helped bring him and his wife good luck, and was comforted by a minister who wandered into the hospital off the street. "That's my Tucson," Hileman said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Wilson and Robinson as Stoddard's daughters-in-law.

(Photo of Penny Wilson, left, and Angela Robinson, right: AP/Ross D. Franklin)

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