A week of heroes, past and present
You couldn’t miss them during the last two weeks.
Their pictures raced across the screens, big and small — on TVs, smartphones, computers and iPads galore.
Regular Americans, transformed overnight, into honest to goodness, flesh and blood, superheroes.
I’m not talking about the comic book kind, or the fake ones that make big bucks — like overpaid pro ath- letes, conceited movie stars, pompous career politicians, stuck-up singers, and tacky reality TV stars.
I’m referring to genuine, red-white-and-blue, real deals.
Public service personnel who did their jobs, aided by impulsive volunteers — who strapped on their personal gear, rolled up their sleeves, got into their trucks, and drove their boats south, to help rescue their fellow citizens, beaten down by two monster hurricanes.
By coincidence, Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath and its evil sister Irma’s landfall arrived close to the 16th anniversary of 9/11. In com- memoration, cable news channels aired scenes of the deadly historic terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania.
As thousands of 2001 victims’ names were read at Ground Zero, during annual ceremonies in Manhattan, taped scenes of police and firefighters running into — not away from — imminent danger reminded us of their brave and selfless actions on that deadly September day.
Fast forward 16 years, and a new crop of gallant heroes appeared, rushing into the eye of the storms to offer aid and comfort to their Southern brothers and sisters.
These actions confirm that the noble character and mettle of the American spirit is always there, simmering just below the surface, and ready to spring into action — without awaiting an invitation — when desperately needed.
But these everyday examples of bravery — of putting other’s needs above their own comfort and safety — don’t happen only during unexpected natural disasters that capture the attention of the nation.
They take place, more than we notice, in our own hometowns, neighborhoods, cities and counties. They may not make the front page of the paper, or local TV broadcasts, but while most of us sleep, out there, in the darkness are:
An electric company lineman, restoring power;
A volunteer firefighter, summoned to duty;
An ambulance driver, rushing toward a hospital;
A police officer, dispatched to a potentially dangerous crime scene;
An emergency room nurse, treating a serious injury;
A road crew, clearing a downed tree blocking a road;
A Red Cross volunteer, arranging shelter for a distressed family;
An emergency medical technician offering lifesaving care;
A tow truck driver, called to a highway accident;
A National Guard member, activated during a riot;
A member of the clergy, providing comfort after a loved one’s passing.
This is an incomplete list of our local heroes — people we see on the street, pass in the hallway, sit beside in church.
In many ways, they’re just like us. Except, they’re trained and ready to respond, when called upon to help others in need, during emergencies both big and small.
And for most that means leaving their family members behind, which is a significant sacrifice for their loved ones as well.
Most of their good deeds won’t make the news. But their devotion and bravery make a very big difference to those they help.
That’s why they’re the genuine, red-white-andblue, real deals.
And we shouldn’t only think of them when we need to dial 911.
Ed Okonowicz is an contributing Cecil Whig columnist and author of the “Off the Cuffs” series.
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