"I am not a hero," said Daniel Hernandez, one of the heroes of the Tucson shooting.
He's the intern of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who ran toward the wounded, possibly helping to save his boss's life.
That horrible day was full of wonderful Arizonan heroes, like the 74-year-old retired Army colonel, Bill Badger, who was shot in the head, and after some unknown man toppled the gunman with a chair, wrestled the shooter's gun arm to the ground and pinned him in a choke hold.
"No, I don't consider myself a hero," Badger said. "I did what anybody would do. I think my military background made me react, and the timing was essential."
Patricia Maisch, the 61-year-old lady who grabbed the shooter's magazine of bullets as he was struggling to reload, also declined the honor: "I'm not a hero," she said.
Reading these accounts got me to thinking about who counts as a hero.
If you Google "I'm not a hero" you get a litany of similar stories of courage under fire, of people refusing the title of "hero." They had no choice, they said. Or, sometimes, that it's just their job. An Oklahoma City policewoman fired upon in a routine DUI stop, who managed to return fire and quell the assailant? Not a hero, Katie Lawson says. "To me, I just went out there and did the job that I, and several people, go out each night to do."
Florida security officer Mike Jones, who shot a gunman threatening a local school board last month, announced, "I'm not a hero, folks. I just done my job. "
Capt. Peter Burkill, whose quick thinking saved the lives of 152 airline passengers in the seconds before a potentially fatal crash at Heathrow in 2008, said: "I have never thought of myself as a hero. A hero is someone who voluntarily risks their life. I do think that my skills as a pilot were tested on that day and that it's fairer to say I am a confident and able pilot rather than a hero."
So who counts as a hero?
In his gracious and dignified speech denying his own heroism, Daniel Hernandez called Gabby Giffords and other "public servants" the real heroes.
With all due respect, Daniel, you're wrong.
Gabby Giffords is not a hero; she's a wonderful woman of integrity who was one of the first victims of a crazed young man's violence. The victim is not the hero.
As President Obama said: "And, Daniel, I'm sorry, you may deny it, but we've decided you are a hero because you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss, and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive."
Heroes are the people who voluntarily run toward danger to save lives.
There were many genuine heroes that day (I've only named a few, and some prefer not to be named), but one of them stands out to me:
Joseph Zamudio, a 24-year-old Arizonan, was safely inside a nearby Walgreens, minding his own business, when he heard what sounded like gunshots outside.
You or I in that situation might instinctively duck, hit the ground, run to the back exit of the store to get out of harm's way.
Joseph Zamudio, in a split second, did something else -- something extraordinary. He unleashed the safety on his legal gun and ran toward the gunshots. Spotting the gunman already on the ground, he leaped on top of him to help Col. Badger and the others subdue him until the cops arrived. Zamudio could have easily escaped danger, instead he ran toward it.
"I don't know about being called a hero," he said. "I feel like everybody should think that's what you are supposed to do in a situation like this -- go and help," Zamudio said.
We all should, Joseph, but we all don't -- most of us would freeze or run or panic or think of ourselves and our own family's safety first.
So, instead, we say to you and the other heroes of Tucson: Thank you. You are our heroes. We all need heroes. Thank you.
(Maggie Gallagher is the founder of the National Organization for Marriage and has been a syndicated columnist for 15 years.)