Our kids choose people to admire and emulate people all the time. My youngest's hero of the moment is Alex Ovechkin, a hockey player for the Washington Capitals. Like many other kids, my youngest sees Mr. Ovechkin's feats on the ice and elevates him to the status of role model.
In our society today, we look to athletes, politicians and celebrities to provide role models for our kids. While these people may have accomplished much in their careers, often their personal lives and attitudes aren't ones we would want our kids to emulate.
The word hero has lost its aura. We label acts on the sports field heroic. We talk about heroic efforts to finish a project at work. Yet, none of those things are truly heroism. Being a hero means making a choice that may cause personal harm to protect someone else.
The biggest hero of all was Jesus, who chose to give up his life so that we could have a relationship with God. Heroes are people who live out the words of John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
As we focus on the events of 9/11 this week, it's easy to get caught up in the tragedy. Our kids need us to answer their questions to help them understand what happened. But they also need to know that lots of people on that day "laid down their lives" for people they knew and people they didn't know. These are the stories of heroism that day. Some of those people made it out. Some died. But every one of them made a conscious decision to put aside their own needs to see to the needs of others.
Tell your kids some of the stories of heroism on that day, so they can know that even in the midst of horrible events, people carry out the command in John 15:13.
- Tell your kids the stories of the 9/11 rescue workers. More than 400 public service personnel -- police and firefighters -- died that day. When everyone else was rushing out of those burning buildings, police and firefighters were rushing in. They saved countless lives that day, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice to do so.
- Talk about the heroism of Rick Rescorla. He was the head of security for Morgan Stanley, which has 3,700 employees in the World Trade Center. Every three months, he made the employees practice evacuating. When the first plane hit, he ignored the instructions to stay in the building. He evacuated the Morgan Stanley offices. All but three Morgan Stanley employees made it out. Rick and two of his security employees did not. When he was last seen, Rick Rescorla was still helping people get out of the building.
- Remember the amazing acts of heroism of the men and women on United Flight 93. After hearing from family members about what had happened to the other hijacked planes, the passengers of Flight 93 decided they would not let that happen with their plane. They attacked the hijackers in an attempt to regain control of their plane. The plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board, but it never hit its intended target, which was thought to be the White House or the Capitol building.
- Tell your kids about the kindness of the people in Gander, Newfoundland. On Sept. 11, U.S. airspace was closed. International flights on their way in, were diverted to Canada. More than 6,000 people found themselves in tiny Gander, Newfoundland, a town of only 10,000. People opened their homes, cooked meals and shut down schools for shelters. Until U.S. airspace reopened several days later, the people of Gander put their lives on hold to take care of the displaced people from the planes. One of the passengers said, "For everyone else, 9/11 has a heavy connotation. But for me it was when I was reminded what humanity is." The people of Gander sacrificed their comfort to see to the comfort of others on that day.
Heroes are people, who like Jesus, give up the comfort and security of their own lives to see to the needs of someone else. The stories of heroism on 9/11 are countless. They are as much a part of the legacy of that day as the tragedy. And it's as important for our kids to know about the men and women who "laid down their lives" in so many ways as it is for them to know the facts about the events of the day.