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Who Are These People?

September 12, 2011

I was watching some of the CBS special 9/11: 10 Years Later last night.  The raw footage filmed by documentarians Jules and Gedeon Naudet was film I’d never seen before and it was chilling, but it wasn’t so much the filmed record of the events that struck me as much as the thought of the firefighters who blindly walked into unknown horror to save lives.

Firefighters are just regular people who put their lives in danger for people they don’t know for no other reason than that’s what they do. They put the lives of strangers above their own lives and above the comfort of their own families.

Surely there are other jobs and careers that pay more and aren’t as physically demanding and are safer than fighting fires so why do they do this job?

I got to thinking about other people, regular people like you and me, who are willing to sacrifice for others. Maybe not sacrifice our lives like firefighters, but our well-being, our time, our money and so on in an effort to simply do nice things for other people. Like the guy I saw two weeks ago who merged over two lanes in crawling rush hour traffic to pull off the road and help a motorist stranded on the shoulder with a flat tire. Who is the guy who does that type of thing for someone else? Who are these people, these good deed doers? I’m not talking about groups like the Guardian Angels or the Great Lakes Heroes Guild, rather ordinary people who help because one of their core beliefs is that people help each other.

By nature I believe we, humans, are, at our core, beings who care about others, and because of our empathy we believe we should help. We don’t need a reason other than someone else needs help. But I don’t know what separates those of us who limit our helping to charitable donations and volunteering from those who actually take physical action and, at times, put their lives in danger.

The interesting (to me!) dichotomy here is that while there are a lot of average people doing good things in the world, there are also a lot of average people exhibiting rude behavior. So the selfish person who litters and talks in a movie theater, and the rude person who lets a door slam in my face and takes his 20 items to the 10 or fewer check-out lane at the grocery store, and the obnoxious guy on the highway who passes me, cuts back and then leans the upper half of his body out his window to not only give me the finger, but to make certain I see him giving me the finger, because I wasn’t driving fast enough in the right lane, all these people are the same people who will help me change a flat tire or fix a problem or come to my aid in a time of distress.

I don’t know what makes us all less valuable when we’re not in a crisis.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2011 2:59 pm

    I watched that CBS show, too. I had watched parts of it before. I believe they aired it not long after 9/11 because I remember those brothers. They shared their footage of what they taped that day. I spent a lot of last week and all day on Sunday watching 9/11 documentaries. By the time this one came on, I was almost done in but I’m glad I did stay up and watch it. It was good to see what had become of those firefighters even though a lot of it was very sad.

    I was saying to someone about a month ago if they remembered the feeling that we all had here right after 9/11. Everyone cared for everyone else. Everyone was so nice and considerate. It’s a shame that it took a tragedy like that to bring us all together and as you can see, it only took time for it all to go away, too.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      September 13, 2011 12:08 pm

      You’re so right! I remember watching the president speak with a bullhorn a few days after the event and it was like I was there and I didn’t care what initial anyone had after their name because I wasn’t going to be separated by something that simple. That didn’t last long


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