When I wrote about Wesley Autrey’s subway rescue four days ago I thought it was a great little story for my little blog. I didn’t think I’d hear about him again. Since that day though, he’s become the Hero of Harlem, been on talk shows, been awarded and rewarded. I’m thoroughly pleased. Heroism deserves recognition.
I read two articles today looking back at the man and the deed. A New York Times week in review article has all sorts of brain analysis trying to explain how and why these decisions happen. We can read about the actions of the thalamus, amygdala, motor cortex, and anterior cingulate. Boring. I couldn’t believe I was reading a scientfic explanation of why heroic acts happen. Thankfully the article saved itself at the end by saying, “people who acted heroically often came from more nurturing families and were imbued with an ethic of caring, empathy and compassion.” Bravo. As I said in my first post, heroes are often doing heroic things every day, not just when a train calls for a hero.
An Orlando Sentinel article by Darryl E. Owens tends to agree with me. He quotes Gail Evenari with, “In the long term, what defines a hero is someone who lives a life that is selfless, committed and someone that takes risks.” Owens also points out that heroes are often more energetically embraced during bad times. World War Two saw a change in the tone and subject of comic book heroes and so too has the post-911 world seen an increase and change in the heroes at the multiplexes.
It is important to celebrate heroes, whether they’ve just performed an amazing deed or they’ve lived a life of caring. Unfortunately not all heroes will get a seat on Letterman or $10,000 from Donald Trump. But we can talk about them, learn about them, and learn from them. That kind of reward will be enough of a tribute to the real heroes.