Why does someone perform a heroic act? Because it’s there to do? Then why the hero instead of others? Most heroes say they acted out of instinct; is it bred into their core?
A car hit motorcyclist Brandon Wright in a parking lot. Trapped underneath. His cycle and the car burst into flames. Doomed. Braving death from an explosion, a man saw Brandon and tried to pull him out, No way. He tried to lift the car. Too heavy. Six others joined, feeling the brunt of towering flames and heat. Impossible.
The driver stood in safety, on his cell phone, as the rest tried to lift the car. Futility! The fire spread. They organized six others and lifted the car just enough that one pulled young Brandon to safety. Fortunately for America to watch, someone recorded the action from an office window. Brandon recovered.
We’d never recognize them on the street, but a dozen heroes, and a man who only called 911 or his lawyer, walk among us.
Jeffrey Autry jumped in front of an oncoming subway train and lay on a man who had fallen on the tracks, keeping him safe while the cars thundered an inch above them. That train should have shredded Jeffrey, but thankfully he still walks among us.
In Milwaukee, bystanders charged a fiercely enflamed van to rescue a trapped baby. Yes, they walk among us.
My ex-boss exited first from a crashed and wildly burning airplane and noticed nobody followed. He crawled down into the flames to free three trapped crew members, pushing them up the ladder and leaving after all were out. Burned, he walks among us.
My dear friend, Professor Bill Slater holds more computer certificates than anyone. So where does he choose to live? Only in Chicago’s toughest neighborhood. Why? So he can teach kids judo for confidence and computers for jobs — so they can escape the hood. Now there’s a true American hero, and he walks among us.
During the Vietnamese War, the pilot of a KC-135 flying gas can heard a distress call from a shot-up fighter that was draining fuel too badly to fly to safety. Braving death (or a court martial,) the pilot left the Gulf of Tonkin and safety. He darted twenty miles into a hail of deadly anti-aircraft fire to drag the fighter out through that same gauntlet. The defenseless and unarmored flying tanker would have become an instant fireball from a single hit. He walks among us.
As a high school junior, that same tanker pilot did something more extraordinary. He charged a deranged teacher who had just shot his Spanish teacher and was threatening to kill students in that room. He broke the larger man’s arm and the slate blackboard, disarming the killer.
In the novel, Audaz, Robert Mach portrays that student and pilot.
Most of us have little opportunity to show we are heroes. Most of us are unlike that man in the business suit who seemed able to watch Brandon burn, knowing not what to do, while a dozen frantic men and women demonstrated by lifting the burning car. Most all of us will charge death, ready to give our lives for strangers. Sadly, as many die as live. Heroism is dangerous.
Heroes include companies. I know of two large companies that purposely perished so their employees could have better lives. One burned to the ground but kept paying its employees anyhow, helping them find new work, until its heroic owners were bankrupt, could do no more, and passed away. Heroes every one.
Jesus said, “The greatest love is that a man would give his life to save his friend.” I must know a thousand people who would give their lives to save me or my family. Fervently I pray that they never get the chance. They all walk among us.
I love meeting and writing about heroes. None are perfect, but I shall tell their stories all of my life. Heroism exposes the latent best in people. That’s why I write about them.
You know heroes. You know heroines. Likely you are one. Please write here, there and everywhere, and tell the world what they, what you, have done. You may remain anonymous, but we, the world, need to sing and act and write about the heroes who walk among us. We need you.