Surely everyone by now has heard of or read of the off-duty policeman who died during Hurricane Sandy. As the reports go, he saved 7 family members by moving them from their quickly flooding basement in their Staten Island home, up to the attic during the storm surge. Going back to check the basement one last time; family members say that he never returned. He had drowned on that final trip to inspect the basement. Of course there are always the first responders, who despite best efforts frustratingly watched, unable to get to, several fires and emergency evacuations. Reports of heroic actions are all over the media. Remember the sad , desperate days taking in the toll of 911? Again, the stories of heroism were at an all-time peak.
The media will often shed more light on the positive actions, even heroic actions, of those in harms way or those helping victims. It’s good copy after all.
Why is this? The only truths that I’ve come up with is that it helps soothe people to know that, despite the difficult and mind-numbing situations, people care enough about strangers and others to risk themselves. It’s heartwarming and comforting in times of doubt and strife. It helps them cope and not feel like they’re alone in the world. And there’s nothing that can be said that’s bad about that, to be sure. There’s enough fear-mongering done by the media hype that we certainly need that fear to be displaced by the unmitigated heroic acts. It balances us and gives solace.
It often makes me, and many others I’m sure, question why it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in people.
In 1979, I was sixteen and a series of tornadoes went through our area. I remember the amazing stories of strength in our neighbours who lost everything. A grown son, holding on to his mother as everything disintegrated around them. Holding so tight to her as she was being swept away, that her arm was broken in the tragedy that thankfully was averted. After all that was gone, the mom healed and was there for many years later, able to be a part of her growing family. In communities that were torn asunder by the winds; there was a sense of community and caring. We were fortunate, our home was left standing. Having been twisted, we had to have a steel support beam man-handled into the house and installed to provide the necessary support. Mortar had come out of the bricks in the front outside corner of our large, two storey farmhouse, but it was there. I remember the Mennonite crews that went around helping following. They provided help and asked nothing in return. In my eyes, that’s heroism.
After much thought (and some walks down memory lane), I always come back to some basics.
The heroes we hear about, live not only during the tragic times that receive national coverage. We need look no farther than our local communities for our heroes. They’re the nine-to-fiver, on his/her way home from work, coming upon an accident scene and holding a victim’s hand until first responders arrive. They walk amongst us. The firemen, police, paramedics; they all live within our community too. They’re even the teen-aged babysitter who saves a toddler in the pool.
Yes, they’re all around us.
Quite possibly we’ll be called to action one day. Will we be as compassionate as those who’ve given and/or fallen before us?