Hero Overload, Perhaps?

Emergency responders are tested during a train...

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I think everyone would agree that too many compliments.. too many accolades.. tend to dimnish their importance.The whole idea of taking notice to someone’s deed is to provide them with an acknowledgement that what they did has set them apart from the rest of the pack, either in a self-less act of personal sacrifice or going above and beyond the call of duty for a cause greater than self.  This idea of labeling someone a hero for a job well done or a common act of kindness or Christian charity is way out of control these days.  I mean, I have NO issue acknowledging the relatively common yet valuable things most of us do in life.  These things are important.  But I think awarding “hero” to an individual should remain in context to the definition.

It seems that the events on 9/11 tended to galvinize our universal acknolwdgement of this somewhat looser definition of hero worship, likely to make the victims of 9/11, typically the first responders, assume greater moral importance.  As time has progressed we have assigned heroism to include general self-less acts of personal love and admiration.  For example, one might proclaim that their father or mother was their personal “hero”… or someone devoting their life to a worthy cause could be a hero. 

I want to go back to the original meaning of what it means to be a hero.  Let’s take another look at the events of 9/11.  When it comes to singing the praises of our police and fire units I will sing the loudest.  It does take a special person to want to perform these jobs given the risks and dangers.  But let’s look at this deeper.  One does not take these kinds of jobs with the idea that they are willing to give up their lives to save someone.  They generally take these jobs because of a sincere desire to help people and this manifests itself through extensive training in both technique and state of the art equipment in order to minimize the risks and dangers.  What “they” are saying is… “I will help my fellow man because I have the knowledge and equipment to do so to help assure I keep myself safe for earning a living and a personal quality of life, in order to continue to provide service to my fellow man in the future.”  Each first responder, be it police, fire, or a soldier, likley does not wake up each morning with the idea that he or she will give his life today in order for someone else to live.  Yes… perhaps in the course of a given day certain emergency situations might arise that could in fact force a first responder into a life & death decision.  But that’s a moment-of-choice decision… measuring the risk and immediacy of need, and wealth of other variables, in the flash of a moment.  Sometimes it’s a decision brought on by human instinct.  To me it’s THAT person that becomes a true hero.  Maybe in the last flash of a decision-making moment they had other options less risky but in the end they called the shot based on instinct, experience, and yes, maybe a simple human impulse to save someone vulnerable to danger (the proverbial jump-on-the-hand grenade-to-save-your-buddies idea).

Using that as a definition of “hero” I am cautious to suggest that the first responders, police and fire, who perished on 9/11 at the World Trade Towers, at least in the first building collapse, were not climbing those stairs and hustling out the people and tending to injuries, with any idea of the risk to their own lives out of the ordinary one might find in responding to a typical high rise emergency.  But… maybe those responders inside the second tower did have some apprehension that the same result was also emminent, yet they stayed fast and did their jobs.  That might suggest their tragic deaths could be termed heroic.   To me the true heros of 9/11 (by definition) were those on Flight 93 who grouped together to grab the terroris flying the plane.. knowing full well the plane would crash killing everyone.  That’s the jump-on-the-hand grenade scenario.

Ok.. enough of comparing with the events of 9/11 because we all have our own moral beliefs of those tragic events.  Bottom line, they were all fellow human beings.  I am suggesting that it seems our current perceptions of heroism seemed to begin with those tragic deaths.   All I am saying is let’s not water down the true meaning of “hero” as extending to simple (or not) acts of human kindness or part of our daily routine responsibilities.  Dear Aunt Edna devoting her entire life to setting up a charitible adoption service for under privilidged and abused house pets in Detroit (while being a personal sacrifice, community inspiration, and a compassionate endeavor)  hardly seems to qualify for being a hero like those on Flight 93. 

But.. that is just my opinion.  The reality is that we all individually have our own perceptions of hero worship and for many reasons we might personally acknowledge those that are heroes to us.. and maybe not every hero needs to jump on the proverbial hand grenade to be recognized a hero.

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