In the spring of 2013, I, along with the rest of the nation, watched in horror as smoke and flames engulfed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two terrorists had planted homemade bombs in the crowd and detonated them as the race was concluding. One placed his bomb next to a packed set of bleachers, the other next to a child in a stroller, near the middle of the spectators. I’m not sure there are appropriate words in the English language to describe such a vile and atrocious act, but the images and videos from that day say it all.
A couple of years later, looking back on the footage  from that fateful April day, something caught my attention.
The two blasts happen within a minute of each other. They explode with power and force, knocking down everyone around the site, sending shrapnel flying through the congested street. As the fire and smoke clear, several bodies lay still around the explosions. However, in the midst of this terror – something amazing happens. While most run as fast as they can away from the bomb sites, others turn and run to the smoke. Fighting through the crowd and the wreckage, these men and women defy all self preservation and go to those who desperately need their help. Police officers, firefighters, soldiers from the National Guard, EMTs, and even otherwise normal citizens make up this second group. Boston’s finest without a doubt. As I watched the scene unfold, with these intrepid souls carrying the wounded to safety, setting a perimeter, and radioing in for help with no regard to life or limb,I couldn’t think of a more clear juxtaposition than with the place where Boston Police Officers would find the terrorists later that week.
On April 19, 2013, four days after placing the bomb at the Boston Marathon and murdering M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier, terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was pulled out of his hiding place in a parked boat in someone’s backyard and arrested . He was hiding and ashamed, afraid to show his face.
As I reflected on this stark contrast between real-life heroes and real-life villains I realized this difference was not unique to Boston.
On September 11th, 2001 we found our heroes in full force. Some wore uniforms and ran into burning buildings to save their fellow Americans—most never to return. Others opened up their homes to strangers and helped bound wounds. Some even traveled by sea to rescue stranded New Yorkers from Ground Zero . Whoever they were and wherever they stood, they had one thing in common: they declined personal comfort and traversed into the unknown to rescue their brothers and sisters.
Where did we find Osama Bin Laden, the architect of these egregious attacks? Hiding. Before he was killed by a team of Navy SEALS he tried using his wife as a human shield.
Lesser known perhaps is the story of Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter. In July of 2010 Cpl. Carpenter found himself in a firefight. He was protecting a small Afghan village from a Taliban attack. In the fog of war, a grenade was thrown into the room where he and his team were reloading. No time to think, no time to mull it over or weigh the pros and cons, Cpl. Carpenter jumped onto the grenade to protect the members of his team.
Where do you find the heroes? Perhaps the answer lies in the 2011 South Carolina House resolution commending Carpenter for his service: “…suffer(ing) catastrophic wounds in the cause of freedom” .
We live with heroes in our midst every day. If you look hard enough you will find them. They don’t wear capes and might not look like Wonder Woman, but they’re heroes in their own unique ways. You can find them in the E.R.; she might be a nurse working grueling hours, getting yelled at and ordered around, all the while working tirelessly to ensure the best care for her patients. You can find them in schools; he might be a teacher who stays an extra hour-and-a-half after the bell rings, making sure his student doesn’t fall behind. You can even find them at home; she’s the single mom picking up extra shifts at work to put food on the table. These are the heroes who won’t make the news, and the world may never know their names.
Seek out these heroes and thank them.
At every memorial ceremony and at every monument to our fallen heroes, there are always quotes that say, “We will always remember” or, “We will never forget.” Instead of speaking those words and moving on, our challenge, whoever and wherever we might be, is to live out those words and honor the heroes before us by choosing to live courageously. Although in our lives (God willing) we may never find ourselves staring into the face of a burning building, or the smoke of a bomb,we will find ourselves in situations where the right decision is the hardest one, the path of most resistance.
As you run towards that challenge and face it head on… Look to your right and to your left.
Around you, you will find heroes.
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