Heroism shows its many faces

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How would you react in the face of crisis? Would you run for your life? Show aggressive self-defence? Or would you put yourself in the line of fire to save others?

 

Tough questions considering most of us have never had to come face-to-face with a life-threatening situation. We may think we’d act one way, but when the adrenaline kicks in, we may do something completely uncharacteristic.

 

Hopefully, most of us will never know the answer. Sadly, last week, dozens of people at Virginia Tech university found out all too well.

 

Acknowledged as the worst gun rampage in United States history, a 23-year-old South Korean-born English major, Seung-Hui Cho, ran amok, killing 32 people, then taking his own life, on the quiet Blacksburg, Va., campus.


Our first question, naturally, is ‘why?’ But the answer, well, we may never know.


So we move on — how could we have stopped this from happening? How can we protect our children? When is America going to crack down on its passive gun laws?


The night of the shooting spree, Larry King Live hosted Dr. Phil McGraw. A renowned therapist, he pointed out sadly, but realistically, that: “we are in a different era right now.” Meaning, where these kinds of horrible events can happen.


OK, but something still has to be done to at least try and minimize these situations, and the ensuing casualties.


So it’s not unwise to think through how you’d react in times of terrible danger. Consider the actions of Prof. Liviu Librescu. Shot and killed by Cho last Monday, the day after Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. What’s the significance? Librescu survived the Holocaust as a child. He also managed to escape communist rule in Romania. Librescu lived through some of the most dangerous life experiences and came out the other side.


But not last week. Without a moment’s hesitation, he ran to block the door of his classroom from the gunshots heard in the hall, while his students took cover behind their desks. As the shooter advanced, some students kicked out windows and most jumped to their safety 10 feet below.


Not professor Librescu. He was fatally shot and died on his classroom floor. The ultimate hero.


A student in another classroom did the same thing, barricading the door with his body while other students managed to escape. He survived — also a hero.


Some other students stayed in close proximity to Norris Hall, the building in which the gunman was firing, and set up a makeshift triage facility to help with the injured while waiting for emergency vehicles to arrive. In my opinion, they, too, are heroes.


And those who remained locked in their dorm rooms, as instructed by campus police, did the right thing. They may not be heroes, but they stayed out of harm’s way, saving themselves, and allowing security to work unimpeded.


Heroism, self-defence, or inaction — let’s hope we never have to know which direction we’d take.


relating@metronews.ca

 
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