Saturday, October 1, 2011
REAL LIFE HEROES
Since 9-11 we have certainly given lots of thought to our emergency first responders—police officers and firefighters—true heroes who respond immediately to the scene when life is threatened. Every day these brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect us from disasters, whether the result of criminal actions or natural disasters.
A few months ago I came across an article titled A Day In The Life Of A United States Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer. It talked about his training and related the events of his first dangerous sea rescue during a raging storm.
It got me thinking about a Coast Guard water rescue I saw covered live on television many years ago.
In 1993, when the Midwest was inundated with floods and the Mississippi River was way out of its banks, the Romance Writers of America national conference was in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to the conference, there had been lots of speculation about whether the conference would be cancelled or its location changed due to the flooding. But, the hotel was high and dry as was the airport, so the conference went as scheduled.
There were some interesting moments of weather during the conference. Late one afternoon during a thunderstorm, there was a lightning strike on the sidewalk close to the hotel…close enough that the noise was much more than merely the thunder sound of lightning and you could see the new scorch marks and damage on the sidewalk. Every day television carried live coverage of buildings being swept away, people trying to save whatever personal belongs they could, animals being rescued, etc.
On Sunday morning of the conference, I had television on in my room while I was getting ready for lunch with a friend. The helicopter news camera crew caught a spectacular rescue for live television broadcast. The images were riveting. A white wood frame two story farmhouse totally surrounded by swift flowing water. No land in sight, only the tops of trees. A man on the roof waving both arms in the air to attract the attention of anyone who could help him.
And, as if on cue, the Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew arrived on the scene. They pulled the man from the roof of his house and before they even got the rescue line pulled back into the helicopter, the entire house collapsed and was washed away leaving nothing visible other than debris floating on the water.
Two hours later this same four man rescue crew were standing in the lobby of our conference hotel. With the helipad on the hotel roof, they were staying there as their temporary staging area for the next twenty-four hours. These four young men were surrounded by women all wanting to get hero material for their next romance novel—and understandably so. They were true heroes in every sense of the word.
That same weekend a major league baseball team was in town to play the St. Louis team and were staying at the same hotel as RWA conference. Professional jocks in a hotel with 2,000 women. It would seem to be a match made in heaven?
From my personal observations, several of the baseball players were rude and arrogant, making uncalled for comments when they were ignored by the women…in the restaurant, at the elevators while waiting for one of the cars to make it to the lobby, and in the lobby. Anyone who has ever attended a conference with 2,000 people knows what a hassle the entire waiting-for-an-elevator thing can be.
Then the Coast Guard rescue crew arrived in the lobby. The baseball players were almost trampled in the stampede to get to the obviously embarrassed Coast Guard crew who were soon surrounded in a corner of the lobby. Blatantly apparent that the true heroes of the day were the ones in demand rather than those inflated egos whose noses were bent out of shape.
Just an interesting observation that came to mind while reading the article about the Coast Guard rescue swimmer.