Thursday, September 06, 2007

Heroism comes in many different forms: American Red Cross honors heroes

American Red Cross held this morning its Real Heroes Breakfast in Salem to honor various people — and a canine — that are seen as heroes by their families, co-workers, peers and the general community.

One of the things that stood out was how heroism can be in many different forms. For some, it’s part of their job, such as being a policeman or a police dog. For others, they became heroes when they went beyond their jobs to try to save the life of a stranger or came across a situation not normally in their duties. A hero can also be people who volunteer resources or time to different causes that help the community to be a better place.

The people honored today included home health nurse Tammy Atkin, from Salem, who won a Humanitarian Adult Hero award. While on vacation in New York City, she saw someone fall and recognized that the person was having seizures. She leapt over guardrails and offered first aid treatment as she attempted for 25 minutes to save the man’s life until an ambulance arrived. She later also consoled the man’s wife. While the man still died, Atkin was honored for doing what she did for a stranger.

The Community Partner Hero is Sergeant Rick Igou from Independence, Ore. who does a lot for his community, especially in helping with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. Teams who go through the training can help provide emergency services until professional help arrives — whether it’s an accident, a search and rescue operation or even an earthquake.

Dick and Gayle Withnell received the Spirit of the Red Cross Heroes award for the many community contributions they have provided for a long time to the community. The list of organizations they belong to and offer their time and resources is long, ranging from United Way to the No Meth Task Force to helping foster children. Their motivation, according to the awards program, is to leave the community a better place than when they joined it.

K-9 Deputy Vader wagged his tail as he accepted an award around his neck for being the Animal Rescue Hero. Last year he helped track down a lost three-year-old boy who had wandered off into thick forest. After three hours of tracking, the dog found the boy — nowhere near where other searchers were looking for him.

In the Professional Rescue Heroes category, Troopers Andrew Goffrier and Adam Turnbo were honored for saving the lives of three people who rolled their canoe into the river and nearly drowned as hypothermia began to set in. The troopers are Oregon State Police Officers in the Fish and Wildlife Division, and part of their job was patrolling the Willamette River looking for illegal fishing. Instead, they ended up pulling into their boat the very cold and wet canoeists and even offered their own jackets to keep them warm.

This morning’s stories were mostly ones with happy endings: People had their lives saved by these heroes.

After the breakfast, I thought about the times in rural areas that people help each other out and we don’t recognize or honor them as heroes often enough.

I thought of the time someone saved my older brother when he fell through the ice while ice fishing too close to a truck that had also fallen through the ice.

I recalled the time one of our neighbors had a combine light a crop on fire, as well as the machinery, during harvest. I recall my younger brother and other neighbors racing to save the woman, as well as extinguish the fire and save the crop.

And then there was the time an elderly man in the community — a former school bus driver of mine — got lost while hunting. Neighbors, including my father, searched for several hours until they found the hunter disoriented and dehydrated but alive.

There have been medical emergencies and farm accidents, and I can easily point to several neighbors who used their pickup trucks as ambulances to race people to hospitals an hour or two away.

When automobile, ATV or skidoo accidents have happened, it was usually neighbors who first came upon the scene and offered the first medical help and support people needed.

When bad weather has hit, there have also been neighbors who have gone to check if anyone needed help — whether it was medical attention, to use a chainsaw or snowplow to clear a road, or see what else needed to be done.

I could go on and on. Have any of these people received medals of honor, speeches, or applause for what they did? No, and most people are modest about what they have done. But they remain heroes in the community. Best of all, they made the community feel better to know these are their relatives, neighbors and friends or even strangers that they can depend on when something happens and help is needed.

The Withnells had it right: We should all leave our communities a better place than when we joined them, whether it’s one act of heroism in an emergency situation, or how we live our lives daily supporting those who need our help.

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threecollie said...

Elaine, we personally experienced that wonderful spirit of the small town community when the boss had to have an emergency appendectomy when the kids were little. I was alone with fifty cows, fifty heifers, three little children and my 83-year-old mother in law (who milked cows every day until she was 86)...until friends and neighbors found out what happened. Then we had folks to feed and folks to clean, people to put up fence and all kinds of food. For six weeks people helped us and I will never stop thanking them.
Thanks for a post that reminded me of the best side of human nature.

Elaine Shein said...

Wouldn't it be great to have a place to invite people to post stories of rural heroes or give kudos to neighbors in rural communities?

threecollie said...

It is a great idea and I think you would get an amazing array of inspiring and touching stories.

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