“Shoot Me First”

We all need heroes. We do not need them to worship or to adore. We need them to provide examples and models we can aspire to, even if we ourselves never quite meet these aspirations.

Sports heroes, when not juiced with performance enhancing chemicals, provide examples of excellence that are the outgrowth of commitment and training.  Other heroes provide examples in different, more indirect ways. Most heroes are quite inconspicuous, like the father who works long hours to provide food and clothing for his family or the single mother who works a job all day and cares for her children at night. There are heroes like nurses who stay late to grasp the hand of a frightened patient alone in a hospital room. There are heroes like firemen who risk their lives to save people they do no know. There are military heroes, which we hear too little of, like Marine Capt. Joshua L. Glover who was awarded the Silver Star after taking the full brunt of a grenade to save his buddies.

In a week when we get to experience the worst of behavior, like former Republican Representative Mark Foley who sent explicit and unseemly electronic messages to Congressional pages and we are made to endure the ensuing political finger-pointing, we are also afforded a story of true heroism.

In Nickel Mines, PA an unbalanced milk truck driver, Charles C. Roberts, motivated by unclear internal demons, killed five young girls in an Amish school house. It is a story of violence in schools that has too often been repeated. However, there was an interesting and different aspect to this story.

When it was all to clear that Roberts was going to gun down the children. One of the older children in the school, 13-year-old Marian Fisher, asked “Shoot me first,” in order buy time for the younger children. The sacrifice was in the end not sufficient, but Fisher displayed a self-composure and bravery under stress that few could ever match. In the process, she demonstrated a power of faith and self sacrifice many should aspire to. Few will find themselves in similar situations and fewer still would respond similarly.

Heroism can also be found in the quiet reaction of the Amish community to the killings. There was not only dignity in the private grieving over the loss of the children, but true forgiveness and reconciliation between the families of the victims and the killer. This reconciliation will cauterize the civic wound inflicted by the killings and prevent anger over these killings from spilling over into new violence.

The cynical in us will see a world populated with too many Charles Roberts, while the heroic in all of us will aspire to a world more commonly occupied by the Marian Fishers.

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