Especially since 9/11, the word "heroes" is sometimes used relatively loosely.

According to Webster's dictionary, a hero is "one admired for their achievements and noble qualities" or "one who shows great courage."

Too often, we label individuals as "heroes" even if their actions weren't up to such a calibre; if they merely just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

On Monday night, several individuals rose to the status of "hero" in Ross Township - and their label is not misappropriated.

An angry individual began shooting guns during a meeting of the board of supervisors. The suspect, Rockne Newell, 59, killed three people and wounded others.

When arrested, he alleged made clear his intentions, telling a police officer, "I wish I killed more of them."

It's likely he would have if it wasn't for those "heroes."

Before going into their details, we have to emphasize that these individuals displayed unbelievable courage.

There was 62 year old David Fleetwood, a supervisor in neighboring Chestnuthill Township. He was attending the meeting because he's the Ross Township zoning officer.

Fleetwood died of gunshot wounds to the stomach after positioning himself between Newell and a woman. The woman appeared on TV newscasts and told how she would have been shot had it not been for Fleetwood's actions.

Then there were Bernie Kozen and Mark Kresh.

Kozen, the West End Open Space commission executive director, grabbed Newell even while he was shooting. He bear-hugged Newell and took him down, said someone attending the meeting.

Kresh came and assisted Newell.

During the scuffle, Newell's gun discharged, but he shot himself in the leg.

We're sure there were other instances of courage ... and heroism.

What would you do if you were in the position of David Fleetwood, Bernie Kozen, or Mark Kresh? Nobody knows until such a situation occurs.

But it's someone special who reacts the way these three individuals did.

Newell wanted to take out more people. Thankfully, he didn't get that opportunity. Thanks to heroes in the audience, he was stopped in his tracks. Three lives are too many to have been lost, but it's hard to imagine what could have occurred.

Heroes.

In the case of the Ross Township incident, the term applies to these three individuals. They measure up to the definition in every way.

Thank goodness for them or the situation would have been even more ugly. Newell, a coward with guns, would have gotten his wish.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]