From Michelle: Last September 11, Jo Davis visited RBTB to help us make a little sense of our feelings about the day by paying tribute to the "True Grit of An American Hero." Please welcome back Jo as she reminds us why looking back is the best way to move forward.
From Jo: Good morning, Michelle and Bellas! Thank you so much for having me back today to discuss a special topic, and for joining me in remembering the significance of this day. For paying tribute to my favorite folks—heroes.
Years ago, at a time when I was far more innocent, I listened to a gentleman tell a story of real-life suffering. Of cold, systematic murder on a grand scale and of people crying out for terror to end, for justice to prevail. What a horrible tale it was, and a valuable lesson no history book could ever teach. In a quiet, resolute voice, this man said, “Let us never forget what one human being can do to another.”
I’ll bet you thought I was referring to the day on most of our minds today, September 11, 2001. No, indeed. You see, that gentleman was an elderly Jewish man who spoke to my 10th grade high school World History class about surviving the most unimaginable horror of his time—years of incarceration at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany during World War II. A place where more than one million people died, 90% of whom were Jews. Hell on earth. And that gentleman lived to share his experiences and his message with others.
Let us never forget what one human being can do to another.
His words remain forever burned into my memory exactly as he spoke them to a group of wide-eyed 16 year-olds in my class, 28 years ago. They haunted me on December 21, 1988 as I watched news coverage of Pan Am Flight 103, brought down by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland. They made me shiver as I saw the tragedy of Oklahoma City unfold before my eyes on April 19, 1995, and again on April 20, 1999 as I learned of the massacre at Columbine High School.
They hit me hard on September 11, 2001, and many times since. History, it seems, will repeat itself because there are always those who will never get the message, or care about ideals such as freedom, love, and human dignity. Does this mean all is lost?
Absolutely not! While we as Americans should remember never to take these ideals for granted, there’s something else we should remember as well:
Out of the ashes, there is hope. Because for every tragic event, there are survivors. And for each survivor, there is a hero. Someone who helped them through their darkest hour, someone who reminded them that while there is evil in the world, there is also good. There is still a reason to believe that at the end of the day, the best in people will triumph.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The elderly gentleman who spoke to our history class survived Auschwitz because his fellow comrades kept hope alive, refused to let each other give in to despair. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, firemen and other rescue workers spent sixteen days pulling victims out of the rubble. A 27-year-old financial analyst donated his entire year’s salary to assist children orphaned by the tragedy.
On September 11, 2001, six firefighters helped a grandmother climb down from the 73rd floor of the North Tower. After they reached the 4th floor, the tower collapsed…but all seven people survived. That day, passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 overpowered hijackers, preventing them from reaching their intended target and sacrificing their own lives in the process.
What do every single one of these heroes have in common? The survivors are reluctant or downright refuse to take credit for their acts of bravery.
They are loyal. Selfless. Dedicated. Honorable. Courageous.
This is the stuff that makes a true hero, and there are endless examples of their sacrifices to light our way through the darkness. To remind us that while there are those in the world who would take away our freedom and our very lives, there are many more who would not, under any circumstances, allow them to prevail.
Shall we pause to reflect on the past, and never forget the horrors our enemies would inflict so that we may prevent them from happening in the future? Without a doubt.
But let us never forget the heroes who, in our moment of need, put it all on the line and risk everything to save us from harm. Because when your day of personal darkness comes, that hero may be the one who ensures you survive to pass on the message.
That hero might even be...you.
Has there been a hero who stepped in and saved your life or that of someone you know, or impacted it in some other way? If you could, would you write this person’s story?