Is “Hero” Too Strong a Word?

December 15, 2020

If You Think So, You’re Out of Your Mind.

A Christmas concert outside a Manhattan church this week ended in an encore of gunfire when a gunman with a lengthy criminal record, brandishing two semi-autos—one in each hand—and carrying a backpack with a can of gasoline, rope, wire, tape, knives and a Bible inside, began firing rounds, sending terrified concertgoers scrambling to get out of range or find some kind of cover.

One elderly man with a walker and his companion huddled behind the virtually useless protection of a light pole directly in the gunman’s line of fire. They had nowhere else to go.

Take a look at footage of the incident:

“People were panicked because no one knew what was going on,” said the owner of a nearby shop who opened her doors to the fleeing crowd. “They were running down the street and hiding themselves wherever they could.”

Not a surprising reaction, right? That’s what pretty much anyone would do when an idyllic scene explodes into chaos. One minute you’re listening to the heavenly chords of Ave Maria and the next minute, hell shows up.

What do you do? Try to control your terror and get the F out of there—if you can—or try to find a safe place to hide long enough for…

…for what?

…for who?

The answer?

For those who run to, not away from, gunfire.

For those who stand between a gunman who’s not afraid to die and horrified citizens who desperately don’t want to die.

For those who don’t think twice about putting their own lives on the line to end the horror of a Christmas concert turned nightmare.

You wait for the police to come to the rescue, and in downtown New York this week that’s exactly what they did.

Note that these weren’t SWAT guys in an armored car carrying sophisticated rifles who initially responded. Nope. While hundreds of people were lulled into the comfort and calm of Christmas carols, right up to the point where shots rang out, NYPD’s finest risked it all, engaging an active shooter while wearing regular uniforms and carrying regular guns, in an effort to protect regular people.

As the gunman bobs in and out of sight from behind a stone column, officers continue to try to convince him to drop his weapons while returning fire. Finally, one of the officers’ rounds finds the suspect’s head and he goes down.

Do me a favor. Forward the footage to 1:41 seconds and take a minute to stare at that frame.

What do you see?

Two cops, kneeling behind garbage cans that provide no real protection against incoming rounds, wearing no special armor, engaging a suicidal, actively-firing gunman in an effort to divert his attention from those fleeing the scene and the poor couple hiding helplessly behind a light pole right in front of him. That couple didn’t choose to be there. They ended up there. But the cops voluntarily put themselves on that front line, to be by this couple’s side, protecting them at the potential cost of their own lives.

THIS is what policing looks like.

THIS is what sheepdogs guarding sheep looks like.

THIS is what guardians watching over the helpless looks like.

THIS is what warriors standing courageously between good and evil looks like.

In this cynical age of anti-police sentiment there will be those who say this is simply what another street scene in New York City looks like…but that’s insane.

This is what HEROES look like.


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