I picked up a newspaper the other day and saw a story where the State of Indiana was celebrating ten local hero's. Those hero's were nominated by everyday people, and where everyday folks; just like you and me. Friends and family who thought recognition was deserved for a heroic act. It was a very good article, telling of those peoples deeds for which they were nominated. I started thinking afterwards that frequently, the majority of heroic deeds goes largely unnoticed and without thanks, except by the very few. There are events in everyone's life which would probably rate as a heroic. I don't know if it was the military influence, or if it was just an inherited trait, but my father proved his bravery in many ways and influenced me.
My father has the hero qualities. He served with the army in Korea, seeing action in the front lines. After returning home he joined the Air Force reserve, staying in with them for many years, and devoting thirty six years to a civilian position in a Naval Institution. Rising up from a warehouse worker to a branch head at retirement.
The earliest memory I have of a heroic deed my father performed was when I was five years old. The primary reason I can remember this is because I was involved in the events. At that point in my childhood, my family lived in a small house in the suburbs of Indianapolis. We lived in a small house and next to our house was an empty lot. My father bought the lot which had over the years grown wild so now the trees were tall and the weeds had grown to be a thick, jungle like area. Soon after purchasing the lot, he started clearing the underbrush. The neighborhood kids played around in the area, and we hung around watching him work. One day after piling up a large amount of weeds he had torn out of the ground and let them dry for a day, he set the pile on fire. This was back in the days when you could burn trash within the city limits. Now the burning of trash and leaves is a no-no within the city limits. I don't remember how it happened, whether I was playing around in the area, or I was helping him gather up the small stuff, as kids will do, but I had wandered too close to the fire. My pants were cut off hand me downs, and the leg cuffs were frayed. The fringed area on my left pants leg caught fire, and soon my entire left leg was aflame. Quickly my dad rushed to me and patted out the flames, severely burning himself in the process on his hands. I had to have skin grafts and was in the hospital for a while. Even today, some thirty five years later I still have a large scar on my left leg, testament to the fire. My dad never made any fuss over his hands, to him it was just one of those things that happen, and he would of attempted to save me even if he would of had to sacrifice himself. What may of been a fatal incident was prevented by my fathers quick and decisive actions.
In the late sixties, the family was returning home after shopping at a Kmart located on the northeast side on Indianapolis not far from home. It was around dinner time, and the road were empty as we drove away from the store. As the car slowed to a stop at the intersection of 38th street, my dad shouted and pointed to the house to our right. A Tudor style house had flames shooting from one side of the roof and from a second story window under where the roof was aflame.
Dad, not wasting a second, slammed on the brakes and threw the car into park. Leaving the car in the middle of the road, he leaped out and ran up to the front door, all in the blink of a child's eye. After pounding on the front door and getting no response, he kicked open the door and ran inside. All of us kids were glues to the side windows of the car, wide eyes as he disappeared inside, watching the drama unfold. The roar of the flames getting louder and louder every second.
All the while the flames advanced and we kids stared out through the car windows. After what seemed like an eternity, dad ran back outside. The fire trucks arrived shortly and a brief exchange took place between my father and a fireman. We drove away and that was the last I ever heard of it. Although there was no-one in the house, that fact does not lessen the heroic feat and we kids were amazed that he had ran into the fiery house.
I thought a lot of those things my dad has done over the years. The fiery pants I could not forget. So when an event occurred to me in which somebody's life was in danger, I acted.
In the early eighties, my wife's family had a group of friends from their old home are of Dayton Ohio to visit us in St. Louis Missouri. We enjoyed showing them around the area sight seeing. Since we lived in a country area, we went to many natural scenic locations.
The foothills of the Ozarks south west of St. Louis area beatuiful with many small creeks and rivers flowing in their vallies. The Meremac river winds its way around the hills close to the small town we lived in flowing swift in most areas, coming to a pleasant slower pace in the deeper locations.
One evening my wife and I took her sister and friend out driving around the country to show her around. Mid-day found us in the area of a public boat ramp, so we decided to stop there for a while. The access area was busy, not crowded, with families and groups putting in boats, fishing and just lounging around. That area of St. Louis is a beer drinking region and there were some groups of guys just standing around by their cars and by the river banks drinking and passing time. I was walking around looking at the river when I suddenly I heard a splash and a scream. Looking towards where the scream come from, I saw a girl bobbing in the current as she flowed downstream. My wife's sister stood at the edge of the boat ramp and screamed for someone to help her and sickening feeling came over me that the girl from Dayton was in deep trouble. Quickly she looked around at everybody who was close with pleading eyes and in a flash Michelle jumped into the water to "attempt" to save her friend. Almost immediately her head was bobbing above the churning water, her arms flinging about and screams for help bursting from her lungs. By now I was standing very close to her and turned to the group of guys who stood close. Looking at all these hulking country dudes, I asked "Which one of you big guys are going in and get her." They all looked as if they had just heard their manhood was going to fall off at noon, so I stepped to the edge and jumped in.
Looking back on the event I was involved in, I can say the reason I acted was because I knew I could be successful. There are those like my dad who acts without thinking about their own safety, but thinking of those in danger.
By Jeff Anderson
Friday, September 01, 2000
© 2000 Jeff Anderson