"Talking To Heroes "
I was standing in line at the check out counter when I looked up to see three guys in uniform-LAFD uniforms–ahead of me. Right before I'd entered the store, I'd noticed that the sky to the north was still eerily black, pierced only by the sun, a small ball of blazing orange peeking through the smoke. Ash was falling in the parking lot and lightly dusting the cars with a fine, toxic snowfall. It was Day Three of the fires that were ravaging 25,000 acres of land in the west San Fernando Valley, and things were calming down.
So, when I saw these guys, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Eyes glued to the television for two days, what I'd seen had been nothing short of phenomenal. I'd heard unending praise and adulation for guys just like these, exhausted, courageous, risking their lives day and night in the valiant fight to save people's lives, pets and homes.
I asked the one standing closest to me if they were finally getting a break, and he said that the winds had died down so this was their first chance to grab some food in two days. I told him that they were all awesome, and he told the other two and they all thanked me. I said, “Wow…you guys are true heroes” and one of them pointed to the guy farthest away and told me that he'd been one of the guys up in a helicopter doing the water drops for two days, and that had made a huge difference. They were polite, friendly, adorable (actually, “helicopter guy” was a total hunk) and humble. I said, “God Bless you,” as they left and they thanked me and told me to have a good day.
When I got home I ran in to tell the two guys I work with about my experience. I was so excited, and they said “cool” but I think they thought I was a bit of a dork. So I called my best friend and told her; I knew she'd get it. And she did. She was excited too, and asked me for all the details of the encounter. In the end, she said that it reminded her of the way some people react when they see a movie star and actually get the chance to talk to them. “Exactly!” I replied. That's how I felt.
Except, not exactly. Because we both realized that I was excited, but not because I was in the presence of someone known for the size of their bank account or the poutiness of their lips. I was not star-struck by the TV credits they'd accumulated, the hot bodies they'd sweated (or paid) for, or the number of magazine covers on which their faces appeared. I wasn't star-struck, but I was awe struck. Not by their fame, but by their courage. Not by their arrogance, but by their humility.
And, unlike the people who bump into a movie star and say dumb things they wish they hadn't said, or stammer in their presence, I felt completely comfortable talking to these guys; after all, they're the guys living down the street, regular guys who actually appreciate a pat on the back and don't feel like they're doing you a favor. But they ARE doing all of us a favor, on a constant basis, and it was that every day, take it for granted bravery that left me in awe.
Ever since 9/11 I think we've all become more aware of the real heroes in our lives: the ones who risk their lives for us and call it their duty. The ones who fight our wars, protect us from crime, and do battle with those raging fires. The ones who rescue a dog and reunite it with its owner, or row boats down flooded streets in search of those left stranded, or rush into the inferno as they plead with us to get away from it. That's why I was excited. It's not every day I get to talk to heroes.
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