By definition, a hero is one who, without regard for personal well-being, exhibits courage in the face of great adversity for the good of fellow man.
That description fits Dothan Police officer Jeremy Wallace well. Officer Wallace responded to a fire at a home on West Powell Street last week and found the structure consumed by flames and heavy smoke.
He also heard screaming coming from inside the burning house.
Wallace risked great personal danger to fight his way into the inferno, where he found a woman in a smoke-filled room. He led her through a wall of greasy smoke to safety.
Then he went back inside. The woman’s son was still in there. Wallace located the man and brought him outside, too.
Following the unimaginable horror that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001, at the Pentagon, in a Pennsylvania field and at the World Trade Center towers, people all over the world struggled to make sense of what had happened. One thing was clear: without the actions of hundreds of men and women, the tragedy would have been much worse.
We didn’t have to think twice about how to characterize these folks. They are heroes. They were police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel and everyday people who cast aside concern over personal safety and ran to danger with the hope of helping others to safety. They were civilian passengers on an airliner we later learn had been pointed toward the center of our nation’s government by Islamic radical hijackers, people who chose to fight back rather than submit to the whims of evil men.
They, like Officer Wallace, are heroes in every sense of the word. And they will always be remembered as such.
Since that time, the word “hero” has become a bit threadbare. It’s employed far too often by well-meaning folks who hope to convey their respect and admiration to someone who’s done something for others. It’s not that those actions don’t deserve praise; it’s that applying the “hero” designation in an overly broad fashion serves to diminish its meaning.
We don’t bestow that heroic title on Officer Wallace lightly. Neither he nor the occupants were injured – miraculously -- but without the officer’s courageous and selfless performance, the outcome could have easily – and likely – been tragic.
Courage. Selflessness. Valor. The confluence of these attributes amount to heroism.
“I just felt like I did what any good person would do,” Wallace said.
If that were true, the world would be filled with heroes. And that would make a fine world, indeed.