Examples of heroism can be found every day and in many cases, such as being an organ donor, persons remain anonymous.
A majority of the cases that are reported involve persons who are trained to deal with difficult situations, such as military and emergency service personnel or law enforcement officials. When an emergency arises, these responders have the ability to quickly appraise the situation, then apply their knowledge before acting.
In a research study on what makes a hero, one psychologist, Dr. Joan Harvey, found that people were judging how heroic a deed was based on whether it was personal, such as those involving a neighbor or children, and whether the person worked for the emergency services or not.
Most of us consider someone a hero if they go beyond the call of duty to save a life.
A potentially hazardous school bus accident was averted last Monday in Milton, Washington, a small town about 30 miles south of Seattle. The person who helped avoid the tragedy was not a trained emergency responder, however, but a 13-year-old middle school student.
Jeremy Wuitschick was riding on a school bus with a dozen other students when he noticed the driver "acting all funny." He said the driver's eyes were bulging, he was twitching in his chair and making weird rasping noises.
Then the driver passed out, the victim of a heart attack.
Thinking "I don't want to die", Jeremy's reacted instantly. Surveillance video shows him grabbing the wheel and guiding the bus safely to the side of the road. He removed the keys from the ignition and the vehicle rolled to a stop after bumping into the curb, not far from the entrance to the school.
Jeremy also urged the other students, most of whom were frantic, to call 911 on their cellphone.
The seventh grader wasn't finished. He then attempted CPR on the unconscious driver. Another student, Johnny Wood, who is trained in first aid by the Red Cross, also hurried to the front of the bus to assist. Wood later reported trying to do chest compressions, but the driver's eyes were rolling back so he could tell it was getting harder for him to breathe.
Police and paramedics quickly showed up and the 43-year-old driver was taken to and admitted to the hospital in grave condition. The town's police chief said it was fortunate Jeremy "was thinking on his feet."
While being credited with saving the students and the driver from a serious accident, Jeremy later critiqued his own job performance, just like veteran adult responders would do.
"When something major happens, I look back to see if there's something I could've done better," he said.
It's also a credit to the school district that the two young students were so well prepared to handle the situation in a time of crisis. The school's superintendent reported afterward that students go over emergency procedures several times during the school year, and one of those involves learning what to do if a bus driver is incapacitated.
"It's just for this type of situation," he said.
It cerainly made a difference last Monday.
By Jim Zbick