Lot's of interesting comments and thoughts over at AD's place, and here. This one even generated a few emails which I think I answered to everyone.
But let's talk about this a minute.
What is a hero? If you are like me, you can't really put it into words but you know it when you see it. Right? I'll try anyway. To me, being a hero is somewhat like being brave; You can't be brave unless your scared, and you can't be a hero if you are doing what you are supposed to do.
Here's a fun little fact that has caused me no end of trouble around the fire station: I'm scared of heights. And when I say 'scared', what I mean is pucker factor ten, butt clenching, heart racing, nauseated, hand shaking, voice trembling, praying to 'please God don't let me die' scared. And for me, it starts at about 10 feet off the ground.
On the other hand, most of the crew I worked with when I was a driver/engineer were like spider man. They loved it, wanted to climb, wanted to rappel, wanted to 'get high' as they called it.
Was it brave when those guys climbed the 100 foot aerial and rappelled off? No. Was it brave when I climbed the 100 foot aerial and rappelled off? Your Goram right was!
So what about heroes?
If you have a person trained and equipped to do a certain job, and he does it, he's not a hero. He's just doing his job. His job might be dangerous compared to other jobs. His job might have risks that other people find unacceptable. But it's his job.
But what if you have someone who does that same job, but they haven't been trained, or equipped? Even though they do the same job, the untrained can be a hero.
A firefighter rushing in to save someone from a burning building is not really a hero. He's doing his job. A neighbor rushing in to save someone from a burning building IS a hero. He went beyond what he was expected to do.
Over and above, more than you were expected to be. That is the definition of a hero.
Let me tell you who some of my heroes are;
Single parents who never miss seeing their kids, who work so long and hard that they have no time for themselves, but give it all to be with the kids.
The oldest son of a welfare family who gets his sisters and brother up everyday for school, and makes sure their homework is done every afternoon. He makes sure they have clothes washed and food to eat. He's 13 years old.
In January of 1982, Air Florida flight 90 crashed into the icy Potomac River. Roger Olian, a sheet metal worker who was driving home, was the first to jump into the icy water to help. When a woman too weak and cold was unable to hold on to the rescue line from the helicopter, Lenny Skutnik took off his coat and boots and jumped in to help her. Lenny was an office assistant.
Those are just a few of the people I consider heroes.
So here's the thing; I really feel a sense of folks missing the point when I hear them talk about firefighters for instance who died in the line of duty. They call them heroes, based on the way they died. I would much rather celebrate someone for the way they lived!
That 13 year old son takes care of his family every day! Those single parents give and give every day!
That is the measure of a hero! It's not a matter of how they died. What matters is how they lived.