Those people would be heroes, too

Published 6:59 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Not everyone is cut out to be a hero. Nevertheless, heroes are prevalent here and everywhere. Heroes are first responders whose job it is to save lives. They often do and they often are given that label.

Heroes are ordinary people who, when confronted with a choice, go to extraordinary measures to prevent harm to others.

Heroes are those who go beyond the call of their everyday duties to help others. They are the silent heroes, such as teachers who give extra attention to a child in need, extra food or supplies for those who can’t afford their own.

They are people like Chrislyn Wedderien, owner of Carryout by Chrislyn, who first fed first responders, then much of eastern North Carolina, in the weeks after Hurricane Florence — Wedderien, who was recently singled out with the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Services for her selfless efforts.

These are people who surround us. There is no doubt they are heroes.

But this week, there’s a problem with the word hero.

Twice in a single week, two young men with decades of life ahead of them lost their lives to active shooters.

As all school students are taught these days, the choice is to “Run. Hide. Fight.” Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old senior in suburban Denver, and Riley Howell, a 21-year-old  ROTC student at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, chose to fight.

They saved lives, of this, there is also no doubt. Howell stopped the shooter long enough for the first police officer to arrive on the scene — only one other student was killed. Castillo gave his classmates the time to run and hide — only eight students were injured.

Only one other death, only eight others injured — only should never be ascribed to such numbers, but that is, unfortunately, the new reality.

The new reality is that more and more heroes are being created by being forced to choose between running, hiding or fighting. Their hero credentials are foisted upon them by a choice no young person should have to make.

There’s a problem with the word hero, when this is what’s behind it.

We need a new set of heroes — heroes who are willing to put aside partisan politics, to put aside preconceived notions, to address mental health issues both intellectually and financially, to figure out why so many own enough anger to take the lives of others, to figure out what is wrong and put stops in place to prevent a Riley Howell or a Kendrick Castillo from ever having to be the hero again.

Those people would be heroes, too.