Quick! Bang the Christmas drum and shake the tinsel from our brass horns. The Carnegie Hero Fund
Commission has just announced the names of 21 more people who walk among us who have been lauded for "extraordinary acts of civilian heroism."
This latest announcement brings into focus a total of 85 brave souls who, just this year, have been saluted by the fund established in 1904 by the famed steel baron Andrew Carnegie, whose ears were first perked when he heard inspiring rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people.
Are you ready for this? Carnegie was something of a hero himself because since the Hero Commission's inception, $32.9 million has been awarded to 9,412 people in the form of grants, scholarship aid and, sadly in some case, death benefits.
But it's like "The Duke," John Wayne once said, "Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up
anyway." The Carnegie Awards are about common folk who immediately responded, ignoring loss of life
and limb, in order to save another's life.
In the list that was announced on Wednesday, Mark Pierce of Morristown and Brian Coblentz of Germantown are two Tennesseans mentioned. Mark, a disabled electrician, suffered bad burns and underwent skin grafts after trying to save a lady in a fire about this time last year. Brian, a 47-year-
old landscaper, battled his way through the ice on top of a frozen pond to save a two-year-old girl.
Down in Hartselle, Ala., Bradley Estes was guided only by a terrified voice in a smoke-filled mobile home
but finally found Dewell Brown, grabbed him up, and headed for the door. Estes, soon overwhelmed by
the thick smoke, collapsed near the door, but by then, another man had arrived and pulled him out with the grateful Brown crawling to freedom right behind. Both men were treated for smoke inhalation and lived.
Victor Oxford, a 54-year-old minister and stock trader, was stuck in traffic on a California freeway overpass when he found out why. He saw a 38-year-old woman about to commit suicide 40 feet above the freeway. He jumped from his car, skirted a safety fence, and walked about 85 feet along a precarious
six-inch path on the bridge overpass, all of this above whizzing traffic, to stop the woman.
Holding onto "the other side" of a chain-link safety fence high above the ground, the woman would have jumped if Victor hadn't stopped her by wrapping his left leg around her. As she continued to fight, nearly taking Victor with her, others passed a belt through the fence so she could be restrained until wire cutters could be used to extract the two to safety.
David Benke, a 57-year-old teacher in Littleton, Colo., was on bus duty when he saw a man with a high-
powered rifle approaching the middle school as classes were ending for the day. When the man fired at a group of students, Benke rushed the gunman, but not before another shot severely injured a second student. Benke tackled and wrestled the man to the ground, holding him for police. Those who were injured recovered.
Joe Healey, a 38-year-old cardiac monitor technician, was at Lake Havasu City, Ariz., when he saw a large boat, with its motor on, rifting dangerously towards two children, ages 4 and 6. Shouting to alert the boat's operator, he jumped in the water to get the children to safety, but was then struck by the
propeller himself, causing the lower part of one left to later be amputated. Both children were safe.
Sadly, four of the 22 persons just honored died in the act of saving the lives of others. While they are no
longer with us, the human spirit still burns brightly. Bang the drums and blow the horns, if for no other
reason because "The Duke" also told us, “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.
"It comes into us at midnight very clean," added the great actor. "It's perfect when it arrives and it puts
itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.”
I'm glad I've learned to love our heroes.