Monday, May 12, 2008


There's never a shortage of villains and fools in the news, so much so we might begin to think there's little goodness left in our world.

What follows, therefore, is a small attempt to help balance the scales of truth by shining a spotlight on some genuinely inspiring heroes, whose stories might otherwise go unheard.

Like any lesson worth learning, often all it takes is a good example for the lesson to be passed on; here are three examples, of initiative, of tenacity, and of alertness, worth learning from.

First, all the way from Switzerland, an account of a little girl saved from drowning by the initiative of a passerby. My translation from the Swiss news site Le Matin:
"Chantal" was walking her dog by herself by the Vevey quay, on Wednesday around 7:00 pm. "As usual", she says. Suddenly, the dog drags her by the wharf and jumps into the port's basin. "I slipped and fell into the water. But I don't know how to swim."

Jérôme Montardy heard a "splash". By chance he happened to be a few meters from the incident. "I did not hesitate, I dove in fully dressed." Hanging onto a chain from the wharf, he tries to rescue "Chantal" who struggles in the "cold" and "silty" water.

Then things fall into place. A couple of passersby arrive as reinforcements. He helps the child to climb back on the wharf. Jérôme Montardy even manages to save the dog.

Yesterday he got to meet "Chantal", and her mother, for the first time since last wednesday. "Thank you for saving my life", acknowledged the young girl. The mother was still emotional. "Thank you", she repeated, unable to say more.

Closer to home, the tenacity of a brave soul risking much in order to save a child from being ripped to pieces by a pair of deadly dogs:
[20-year old Jordan Slezak] had been talking with his mother in their Surrey living room when they heard screaming coming from a school yard at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. ...
"The yelling got worse, like someone screaming for their life," said Slezak, a Kwantlen College welding student.

He and his mom ran outside to see a screaming boy lying in the grass by a basketball court, one pit bull savaging his leg, another one circling and barking.

"There was blood everywhere," Slezak said. "I saw blood all over his face, all over his shirt."
Slezak's mother told him to call 911. He ran into his home and ran out with the phone. His mom yelled for him to get his bat. He ran upstairs and grabbed his wooden Louisville Slugger.

By the time he jumped a fence and reached the boy, the dog was mauling the youngster's arm.
"The first swing I gave to the dog was pretty much like a golf swing to the head," Slezak said. "The second blow was two hands overhead, coming down on to the dog's head."

Slezak chased the two pit bulls to a corner in the fencing and held them at bay until police arrived.

"I was worried that the dog was going to go off and attack somebody else," said Slezak. "It could have been a lot worse."
Slezak said the only thing running through his head as he fought the dog off the boy was preventing the child from receiving further injury.
And finally, another Vancouver-area story of heroism illustrating the alertness of a young man whose actions kept a horrible fire's death toll from claiming more than the three lives that it did:

While Roach-Matthews' dad, Bryan Matthews, initially ignored a burning smell he attributed to a toaster, 11-year-old Dustan decided to check the situation out. He heard the tell-tale 'beep-beep' of smoke detectors and saw smoke coming from an apartment in the 155 East 19th St. building.

He raced through the building, warning people on all three floors before exiting, while his dad went back into their apartment to get their cat, Stimpy.

Matthews also tried to ensure people were leaving because some thought the fire was minor. "I'm proud," said Matthews of his son.

"He did a good job because I was ignoring it," said Matthews, who had to go to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. ...

The comment section for the story lists several well-earned messages of thanks and appreciation for our young hero. Graciously, the young man himself writes in, and reveals yet another value within true heroism:

My name is Dustan Roach-Matthews and I just want to say thanks to everybody for the nice comments. It was a scary thing that happened and I feel sad for the people that died. I just did what I thought would help people and was glad more people weren't hurt. I'm not Superman or anything just a kid that did what I could to help people. Thank you everybody. God bless the families of the people that died.

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