he·ro: A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life:
Yesterday in a Salon article, a woman was quoted as saying ""And really, what's all this shit about the fireman being heroes? That's their job, to be heroes. That's why they signed up. Once a month you go run into a burning building and grab a cat and the rest of the time you sit in the firehouse and play cards."
I don't know where she comes from, but that is not the way it works for New York City firemen. By the time my father left Ladder 124 in Bushwick, I don't think there was a building left to burn. He came home every night - every night -smelling of smoke and ash. He would tell us about his day and I don't recall him ever once in the twenty years he was a fireman saying that he had not gone out on a call that day.
One of his first calls when he was a rookie was on Christmas Eve. After crawling through the burning building looking for victims, he found the lifeless body of a little girl in her bedroom. It never got easier, it never got better. Each day he put his life on the line to save the lives and homes of others. He was always and will forever be my hero.
The men whose pictures you see above were the friends of my father. They all died on September 11, and they all died as heroes. Yes, they were doing their job. But they did not have to rush up those stairs. They did not have to run in when everyone else was running out. Any one of them could have turned and ran with the crowd. They didn't. They went into that building hoping to rescue survivors. They never came out.
They represent just a handful of the funerals and memorial services my father attended in the days and weeks and months after September 11. They paid the ultimate price while doing their jobs.
I would like to know what this woman considers a hero if the men above are not her definition of one.