So here’s the deal. I’m staggered. I’ve been searching around my brain for a topic to write about that might be mildly interesting and somewhat entertaining. But all I’ve been paying attention to is hurricanes, floods and forest fires. How can I find a light note?
There doesn’t seem to be one – not from someone on the outside looking in. But the image that is burned in my brain is the convoy of boats heading south to help with the victims of Harvey – pleasure boats, fishing boats, private boats, every damn thing with a motor that floats. A traffic jam of selfless rescuers.
I’ve watched footage of men and women, exhausted, up to their chests in filthy water carrying out helpless people to these same boats – children, mothers, old, sick, frightened people. I saw them risk their lives to save dogs, horses, cows. When it’s all over, they’ll maybe take away a good story or two. There are too many to be lauded and rewarded. Too many to leave a name behind.
About twenty years ago my husband and I were zooming down the highway when we saw that the car in front of us, a vehicle crammed with kids, was losing a tire. The wheel wobbled and shook, ready to spin off. The drivers around gestured, honked, and mouthed warnings, but the woman driving panicked. She didn’t realize her wheel was coming off. She only saw people menacing her and her kids. So she sped up.
That’s where the miracle started. Without any communication, the strangers around her worked in concert to save her. One car moved in front, two boxed in her side, we took the rear. And in unison, we slowed down, forcing her to do the same until she was brought to a stop at the side of the road. I remember still the look of terror on her face. And then the horrified relief when she realized that she and her family had been saved. The man in the lead car stayed to fix the tire; the rest of us went on without ever exchanging names.
We are a marvelous species. There is so much that is the worst in the world – from intentional hatred to the wrath of nature. But the quiet ones, the ones who aren’t calculating any gain, are taking on the mantle of heroes. We all know there will be tragedy and destruction. That the victims will struggle for years to rebuild. But they are alive.
Donors, boat owners, rescue workers, shelter volunteers, truckers – all offering what they can. Working past exhaustion, beyond what they thought was possible. Helping from simple humanity.
Mr. Rogers was right. There are so many heroes.
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