They were there when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon.
They were in the movie theater when that guy dressed like the Joker broke through the darkness and began shooting at the audience. They were there when a madman burst into an elementary school and began killing kindergartners. Certainly they were there on 9/11, rushing into the imploding twin towers.
They’ve always been with us. They are the superheroes among us. They are not cartoon characters with capes and snappy names like Flash or Hulk. They are real-life, flesh-and-blood humans who put their lives in danger to look out for the rest of us.
I always wonder how they got like that. What compels them to race toward danger rather than run away?
Such heroic response is a mother’s nightmare. It’s the last thing any mother wants her child to have to do, even when that child is long grown. It’s also the first thing most any mother would want her child to do. Help others.
You surely don’t want your kid to have to be the one who throws her body in front of a bullet aimed for a child. Or runs into a burning building rather than out of it.
But, I think the best of humanity is defined by those who don’t think twice about saving the life of another — those who boldly face danger despite their fear, and respond with courage when twisted souls manufacture horror.
I know it’s something we never had to think much about before such killing became fashionable among crazy people. But, all these attacks against our peace show us is that for every deranged idiot, there are exponentially more extraordinary humans who inspire us with their fearless response and who model for us the kind of behavior that fills the darkness of carnage with the white light of resistance.
In every one of these recent atrocious acts, our fellow humans have shown us — modeled for us — an inspirational response. At the Boston Marathon, so many ran towards the danger they couldn’t all be counted. It was said that runners passed the finish line and kept on running towards hospitals to give blood for the victims.
Most everyone knows about these folks. But, I feel like there are more and more unofficial “first responders” among the increasing number of us who are exposed to the atrocious acts of terror.
None of us wants to think about ending our lives in service to another human. But, how many of us would instinctively endanger our lives for another?
I don’t know. Who are the superheroes among us and how did they get to be like that? How do you raise a superhero?
I have two adult sons and I know without a shadow of a doubt either would give their life in defense of mine. But, then, I would happily give my own life to save either of theirs. Just the other day my youngest asked a favor and then apologized for putting me out. I laughed and said, “Honey, I would throw myself in front of a train for you, so this favor you need is truly nothing by comparison.”
However, most of us have never been tested. What would happen if there really was a train? What would happen if there was suddenly an explosion. Which way would I run?
Would I be like the heroic unarmed principal who faced off with the gunman at the elementary school or the boyfriend who threw his body in front of his girlfriend when shooting started at the theater. Could I have raced up the steps when the towers were falling?
On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to pay tribute to the moms who have raised their children to be superheroes.
Some believe that babies come to us nearly divine — pure in spirit and radiating kindness. But, it’s likely that babies grow into exactly the type of people we raise them to be.
Mothering is a really hard job. It’s so easy to make decisions that weaken a child. And it’s very hard to raise superheroes.
Most moms never know the results of their efforts until their children are tested. And I know we all fervently pray our children are never tested.
But, on behalf of all the moms who’ve never yet needed to learn whether their children have super powers, I’d like to send my love and gratitude to mothers who already know that their’s do.
Originally printed in the Niagara Gazette