We often use the term "hero" loosely.
We think of cape-clad comic book icons or of athletes at the apex of their career. We shower them in accolades and ask for their autographs. But the difficult reality is that it often takes heartbreak for true heroes to emerge.
This was the case on September 5, 2012, when tragedy struck the small community of Blue Hill, Neb. A school bus and semi-trailer collided on a rural county road, claiming the lives of both drivers and two young students on their way home from school. If not for the actions of Ron Meyer and Phil Petr, the toll could have been much worse.
The two arrived at the scene shortly after impact and immediately sprang into action. Without regard for their own well-being, the two braved the smoke and flames, rescuing five children trapped in the wreckage.
They've been called good Samaritans and guardian angels, but I think we can all agree that, for their actions, they are true heroes. They aren't the only ones who deserve recognition for that day. The first responders did what they do daily--arrive at horrific scenes and do heroic things. To them, we owe gratitude year round. But, when average citizens brave life-threatening situations with no special training and no protective gear, equipped only with a need to put others before self. That deserves special recognition.
Those who achieve the title of hero don't do it for the recognition. Neither man woke that morning, knowing what they would face. There was no planning or preparation for the decision they would have to make. But they courageously responded, preventing what one eye witness said surely could have been a much worse situation.
Unfortunately, not even heroic acts can lift the grief felt by a mother and father who have laid their child to rest. There are no words that can wholly heal the hearts of friends or family who have lost. The entire community of Blue Hill is still reeling from the events of that day -- a heart wrenching day for this small farm town. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.
But we can be thankful for those who, in ways big and small, help carry us through. It can seem a heroic effort to keep the faith and stand together amidst crushing despair, but I know that's exactly what will happen in Blue Hill. Friends are surrounding those grieving, church leaders are soothing souls and teachers are offering gentle words of encouragement. How do I know? Because that's what we do in Nebraska.
We admire selflessness, honor courage and salute the efforts of Ron Meyer and Phil Petr and the first responders on the scene Sept. 5. I know that I speak for the entire Blue Hill community and all Nebraskans when I express my deepest gratitude for their actions. As I pray for those grieving, I thank God for those who survived and the heroes who rescued them.