Monday, May 2, 2011
Pat Maisch stood in front of the crowd of more than 200 people she had never met before, and apologized.
"I'm sorry I'm new at this. I have to read off this sheet — I haven't memorized this yet."
The Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network rally, held on Saturday outside the NRA annual convention Downtown, was only her second public speaking event since January. On Jan. 8, then-61-year-old Maisch was in the back of the line at a Tuscon Safeway, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was holding a "Congress on Your Corner" event. Maisch knew Giffords after doing work at her home through the Maisch family business, Oro Heating and Cooling. She had been there that Saturday as a Giffords supporter.
Then Maisch heard an unmistakable sound.
"When I hear the first shot, I knew it was a gun. Some people thought it was a balloon, but I knew," she tells City Paper.
The woman beside her was shot three times. Maisch dropped to the ground. She estimates that the gunfire, coming from the 9mm Glock of Jared Lee Loughner, lasted about 15 seconds.
Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl were killed -- "on just a sunny day like today," Maisch told the crowd. Thirteen more were injured, including Giffords herself, who was shot in the head.
Two men nearby, Roger Salzgeber and Bill Badger, himself wounded, knocked Loughner down, right beside Maisch. "The yelled 'get the gun! Get the magazine!'" says Maisch. The men had pinned Loughner on his right side; and Maisch knew she had to act.
She knelt in the small of his back and grabbed the magazine for the Glock as Loughner tried to reload. News reports at the time said the clip held 33 more shots.
But she won't say she saved lives. "There's no way to know that." And she adamantly adds. "Anyone would have done it."
Before a reporter can even say it, Maisch shrugs off the word hero.
"I was an ordinary person that had a small part in something extraordinary."
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