From the silver screen to the television screen, there’s no shortage of costumed heroes to root for these days. Modern cinematic technology has brought a virtual army of comic book superheroes vividly to life, to be enjoyed by everyone from kids to older folks to grew up with these heroes back when they existed only on a printed page.
Or perhaps you prefer the costumed heroes from the world of sports — those dynamic athletes who perform feats of greatness on turf, ice or hardwood.
But there’s another group of heroes who don’t receive nearly as much attention. They don’t operate beneath bright lights and under the gaze of admirers and TV cameras. They go quietly about their jobs with little public fanfare for their efforts.
These are the real heroes — the firefighters, police officers and other first responders who rush into emergency situations to save lives while often putting their own lives on the line to do so. The risks involved hit home on Sept. 11 during the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial, which also featured a Lethbridge ceremony at Southminster United Church. The annual event commemorates the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and other U.S. targets resulted in the deaths of close to 3,000 people, many of them first responders who died trying to save others.
On 9/11, while most citizens were running to escape the danger, firefighters and other emergency personnel were rushing toward it. That sums up the special character of first responders — when there’s a fire, a natural disaster, an incident of violence or a threat involving a weapon, these real-life heroes spring into action in spite of the risks.
Lethbridge Fire Chief Richard Hildebrand noted at the Lethbridge ceremony, “Everyone wearing a uniform today here is special and they have this amazing courage, they have this amazing resilience so that when the community is in some sort of jeopardy, they find it within themselves to deal with these crises on a daily basis.”
It’s not something to be taken lightly. Those of us with far less risky occupations would do well to stop and consider whether we would be able to do what these special people do — deal with unpleasant, stressful and often potentially dangerous situations, then go home and try to put it out of our minds so we could do it over again the next day.
Consider the hundreds of people fighting the dozens of fires in B.C. and elsewhere, and which are now threatening Waterton Park. Besides the risk of the flames, the toxic smoke presents a hazard that might not show up until years later. Cancer has shortened the lives of many firefighters as a result of exposure to the toxic chemicals contained in the smoke.
There’s nothing wrong with rooting for our favourite superheroes on the big screen, or cheering on our sports heroes. But let’s keep things in perspective and remember who the real heroes are — the ones who face real dangers in the real world, for our sakes.