We can be heroes

“We can be Heroes, just for one day.”
— David Bowie

Last month I had a short post on this blog about a man in New York who jumped onto the subway tracks to save a stranger’s life. In that post I described the Carnegie Hero Medal; this story led to a series of posts by me on another blog (here, here and here) on the nature of heroism and its roots in our day-to-day lives. One of the things that has stood out for me is that the Carnegie folks have found a common response in many of the people who survived their act of heroism and received an award: a belief that God or Jesus would have wanted them to do what they did.

I was reminded of this in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press:

“God was the one who helped me make my decision,” said Carrera, 46, of South St. Paul. “I took it upon myself to help stop the guy in the van.”

David Carrera is the man who used his own vehicle and driving skills on January 28 to force another driver — who had struck a young girl with his van and was dragging her down the street — to stop his car, saving (so far) the little girl’s life.

He said he did what everyone should do: Pay attention and help each other. “I would have done it for anybody else,” he said.

His wife, who was a passenger during the chase, said the couple really had no other option.

“I don’t think it’s a really big deal,” Antonia Carrera said. “We had the opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life. I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to watch out for each other. Not to preach, but just try to do the right thing.”

Carrera didn’t go to that intersection looking to be a hero. Something happened, however, and he reacted. His sense of responsibility didn’t end after the initial event, either. He and his family have gone regularly to Regions Hospital in St. Paul to visit the 10-year-old girl, Gladys Reyes, and her family. Gladys remains in critical condition in the burn unit and has already had several surgeries, including one to amputate her right arm.

I strongly believe that your outlook on life, and the way you live your life, are things that you choose and this becomes ingrained in you and makes it easier for you to act on a moment’s notice in an extreme need without having to ponder or debate the “right” thing to do. For David Carrera and his family the response was both immediate and ongoing. As for the rest of us, we weren’t at the scene (though I could have been, as it happened at an intersection near my home that I drive through several times a week), but we might still play a part.

Gladys Reyes’ family has no medical insurance, and her parents are struggling financially. Contributions can be made at any US Bank branch office, or mail a check or money-order (sorry, no on-line capability) to:

US Bank – West St. Paul
1493 South Robert St.
West St. Paul, MN 55118
Attn: Heritage Middle School’s Gladys Reyes Benefit Account

Update:

A benefit luncheon and silent auction for the Reyes family will be held this Sunday, Feb. 18 beginning at 11:00 a.m. at the Hilton Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport-Mall of America, which employs Gladys’ mother as a housekeeper. More details at the link.

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