Thursday, 24 February 2022

My heroes are those who save lives!


Four years after 9/11, I was standing beside New York City’s ‘Ground Zero’, reading the hoardings hung on the wire fences around the site of the attack.

One of them declared: “In memory of all those great American Heroes.”

Turning to my friend, I observed

“It’s strange the way the word ‘hero’ is used these days.”

I was about to explain how they were innocent victims rather than heroes, but I never got the chance.

A hand grasped my shoulder. 
I was spun around to face a grey-haired man in an anorak and spectacles.

“Hey! Show some goddam respect!” he hissed at me.

Had I shouted I might have understood this man’s rage. But I'd whispered. The scene before my eyes had filled me with sadness, and my voice had dropped, as if we were in a church.

I was showing respect. I wanted to explain to this man what I meant, but I could see the pain behind his eyes; the loss; the anger; so I dipped my chin and simply said 
walking away with my tail between my legs.
Who knows who he loved in the Towers?
As much as my heart broke for all those lives lost and broken, my sadness spreads far wider, to the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in Iraq who died, as a result of that attack. 
Members of the public killed for no good reason. 
The powers that be have long referred to civilian deaths during wartime as ‘collateral damage’.

It’s a hellish long way from ‘hero’ to ‘collateral damage’ but they are one and the same person.

Very sad.

Whenever particular wars flare up, foreign populations become especially agitated, seeing one ousted overpowered people as more important than others.

I cannot. I just see a human life, each as vital as all the others. 
Now, enveloped as we are in a new crisis in a very old war, my heart bleeds fiercely, as it always does when I contemplate such horrendous debacles.

There is no way to wage war tidily. Even the crisp technology of remote-controlled drone warfare kills innocent victims aplenty. 

Far from being disrespectful, I am honouring all the dead; their sacrifice. There are always so many innocent victims. 

Of course there are heroes. Incredible daring and courage is displayed on a regular basis. When it's employed to save lives rather than destroy them, it's particularly heroic.

I’m not saying that all killing is bad. Give me a gun and I’d shoot a Nazi stormtrooper, no problem.

My heroes, however, tend to be those who dare to save their troops. Give me Shackleton over Scott every day. 
Scott was an amazing man, brave and honourable to the core. Yet in the same way that the English celebrate Dunkirk as a victory, they worship a man who came second and perished with his comrades.

Shackleton’s expedition failed spectacularly, yet he didn’t lose a single man. I have read his own account of the Endurance expedition, the ensuing landing on Elephant Island, the incredible journey in the James Caird and the epic crossing of South Georgia. 
These were tough men, hard and steely in a way so far beyond our sofas, iPads and cappuccinos, I suspect it no longer exists.

Despite his strong ambition and a desire for glory, Shackleton made every decision based upon his greatest chance of keeping everyone alive.
That’s my kind of hero.
Together we pray now, for Shalom peace. 

©Charlie Adley

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