Nation Honors U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 'Save-a-Life Saturday'
American Red Cross classes across U.S. teach life-saving techniques
Ashley Amirr wants to make sure her students are safe.
"I'm graduating in May as an art teacher and I thought it would be beneficial if I ever needed to do CPR on one of my students," she said.
The 22-year-old Cedar Grove resident was one of nearly thousands across the nation who attended a "Save-a-Life Saturday" program, which was a free, non-certification CPR and first-aid training session by the American Red Cross in honor of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Amirr, along with roughly 100 other northern New Jersey residents, attended the program at West Orange High School.
Giffords, who's married to West Orange native and NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly, was one of 19 shot Jan. 8 outside a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed.
Giffords was presenting a "Congress on Your Corner" session when the incident occurred. She currently is in rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Police have charged 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, of Tucson, Ariz., with the crime.
Mark Kimble, a spokesman for Giffords, told Patch that the congresswoman's staff is "grateful" for those participating in the events.
"It's very exciting to all of us to know that this is something good coming out of it and that if there is ever an event in another community, or in our own, that there is more likely more people with training that can help out," he said from a "Save-a-Life Saturday" event in Tucson, Ariz., where at least 2,000 people were expected to show by the end of the day. "There were people on Jan. 8 at the shooting who knew basic first aid, including Daniel Hernandez, who stepped forward … and quite possibly saved (Giffords') life." Hernandez, 20, was Giffords' intern who applied pressure to her wound before paramedics arrived.
Kimble said Giffords is "doing exceptionally well." "She's improving by leaps and bounds and working very hard at physical therapy," he said.
Sue Franson, senior program director for the Northern New Jersey American Red Cross, said there were roughly 100 American Red Cross chapter locations in the U.S. participating in "Save-a-Life Saturday."
"It is a condensed version of other programs … and we're treating people how to do compression-only CPR, how to control bleeding and also how to address any shock issues," she said. "We want to give people enough confidence to do something if they see something happening."
Kimble said the American Red Cross developed the program primarily because of the civilian responders who gave first aid during the shooting.
"It was ordinary people who had the skills to do extraordinary things," he said. "That led to the Red Cross wanting to teach more people to do these things."
Franson said three, one-hour classes were offered Saturday in West Orange to northern New Jersey residents, but that different sites offered more classes. Kimble said there were six classes offered at the Tucson, Ariz., location.
Manny Moscoso, program development compliance manager with the American Red Cross, taught Saturday's courses in West Orange. He said the classes are to teach first-hand, quick emergency responses.
"It's based on an event that happened with Congresswoman Giffords and we wanted to teach the basic class for quick emergencies," he said. "This would hopefully stimulate the community to get advanced training or just to stay up-to-par with helping others."
Perry Lee, 50, of Roseland, brought his family to the 10:30 a.m. class Saturday at the high school. "We wanted to make a difference … save a life," he said. "I just want to be prepared."
Lee said practicing CPR on one of the 19 dummies lined up on the school's cafeteria floor wasn't too difficult. "It was easy … basic," he said. "It's not as complicated as people think it is. I think everyone should learn it."
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-8), who called for a Week of Solidarity after the shooting, said Saturday's events "have accomplished so much."
"We ... continue to pray for Congresswoman Giffords and the other survivors of that day," he said. "But we recognize that one of the reasons Congresswoman Giffords is alive today is because of a quick-thinking member of her staff who had the right first-aid skills and acted immediately. Any one of us can find ourselves in a situation where we can save someone's life if we are properly trained. The people who were trained today have increased the odds that someone will be at the right place at the right time with the right training when something unexpected happens."
Shazia Nazir, an executive assistant manager at Walgreens, that, along with Safeway, sponsored the nationwide events, said the company did so to be more involved with the community.
"We want to show that, in case something does happen in our stores, we're more active to help out," she said.
Moscoso said Saturday's training, though, isn't a substitute for advanced emergency response classes.
"I would take this as: I'm at a bus stop. I'm waiting for the bus to come and somebody collapses," he said. "Now, I'm able to give aid quickly."