Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Tom Foust of my town Glenview--a genuine hero.

"Billy, don't be a hero, don't be a fool with your life
Billy, don't be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as he started to go,
She said Billy keep your head low
Billy, don't be hero, come back to me.

The soldier blues were trapped on a hillside
The battle raging all around
The sergeant cried, 'We've got to hang on boys!
We've got to hold this piece of ground
I need a volunteer to ride up,
And bring us back some extra men',
And Billy's hand was up in a moment
Forgettin' all the words she said"

From "Billy Don't Be A Hero" by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander

If you remember that song from the (ahem) 70's you'll recall that Billy unfortunately became a casualty of war as well as a hero. I remembered Billy this week as I considered our own hometown heroes.

Perhaps you heard about our local heroes on TV a last week. Three teens, upon seeing an 83-year-old woman turn onto the railroad tracks (she thought it was the road) jumped out of their car to rescue her. She refused to get out of her '06 Lexus (she didn't want her car to get wrecked) so one of them, Tom Foust, had to open her door, unbuckle her, pull her out of the car, and finally throw his body over her as first one train, then a second coming from the other direction, plowed into her car.

This act of heroism has generated a firestorm of well-deserved national media coverage,regional award presentations, and kitchen-counter mom-to-mom coffee/cocktail talk around our town. While everyone marvels and admires the kids' courage, a few have suggested that they would kill their own kid (if he/she survived) for doing something so risky.

Hmmmm. This deserves a little thought. I am reminded of my (emotionally unstable) acquaintance who declared after 9/11 that SHE would not have been a victim of that tragedy because SHE would have run for the hills at the first sign of trouble and that she was teaching her children to do the same. Her take on it was--the hell with heroics, it's all about survival.

Well, I don't agree with either assessment. Yes, it would have been a terrible, terrible tragedy to trade three young lives to save a senile old bat who wouldn't abandon her Lexus (she has yet to thank the kids). Just as it was a tragedy that one of the victims of the Twin Towers was a man who refused to leave the side of his handicapped friend in a wheelchair and died doing so.

But ultimately, these are things I would want my children to do. To respond to someone in need, to do the right thing, to be a hero even if it means risking their own lives.

Because in the end, we don't get to choose how we die but every day, in ways big and small, we get to choose how we live.

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