Conversation Topics: Return of Real Heroes
Until recently, modern day heroes were those that "pushed the envelope." They were the most daring, the fastest, the strongest, the smartest -- in short, they were the "-est" of all of us. And to prove it to ourselves, we created daredevil, death-defying feats for them to demonstrate just how superior they were.

Then, during a few short hours on 11 September, we rediscovered what a hero really was.

A hero does not seek his ten minutes of fame. He does not face danger simply to prove he is brave or strong or courageous; he is not a hero for the sake of being a hero. He is not judged on his personal life or the clothes he wears. He is defined by how he acted when action was needed. He does not have to have superhuman strength; he can pause to catch his breath along the long climb up the stairwell. He does not have to do supernatural deeds; he can simply fight with the objects at hand to wrestle back control of an plane.

A hero in many ways is like you and I. He has a family, a job. He lives somewhere, shops somewhere, has friends, goes to the barber for a haircut, has bills to pay. At times, he may get angry. He may have parking tickets or maybe even worse. But in the face of atypical circumstances, those things stop mattering. What does matter is that when duty calls, he volunteers to put his own life at risk in order to do 'what is right.'

Sometimes, when people charge headlong into danger, we aren't sure whether they are heroic or foolish. But that's easy to reason out. If one tries to do what is impossible for him to do, he is foolhardy, a clown. If by some coincidence he succeeds, we call him lucky, not a hero. But more likely, when he surely fails, we laugh at his attempt, and we scoff at him for not knowing better. But if a man attempts what is within in ability to do, if he does that with a sense of duty, of obligation to others, and does it in the face of danger without consideration of himself, then that man is a hero. And whether he succeeds or fails does not matter to us. Heroism is in the action, not the deed. It is in the attempt, not the result.

In the last ten days, we have heard the stories of many that have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of saving others. From that, we have rediscovered what a hero really is, and what a hero really is not. Let us remember this lesson, let us respect heroism in others, and let us keep that spirit of heroism alive in ourselves.

One never knows when we, too, will be called upon.

Updated October 1, 2003 - go to our home or life advice page