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Being a real-life hero is the job

Respect and admiration for one of us is respect and admiration for all of us


A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The pandemic has made already cliché phrases about heroism, like “heroes work here” and “heroes in our midst” even more trite, but the broadening criteria of heroism has not stopped police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics from taking truly heroic actions to save the lives of strangers they have been entrusted to protect.

This week, people around the world are celebrating three incredible acts of courage and heroism.

  • Police officers pulled an injured pilot from his crashed plane moments before a commuter train cut the plane in half. Watch the body camera video of the gripping rescue as the train rapidly approaches.
  • FDNY firefighters, through all means possible, rushed into a 19-story burning building to rescue children and adults who were overcome by flames and smoke. Watch videos of firefighters guiding people down ground ladders and climbing down an aerial apparatus ladder while carrying an infant.
  • A medical flight crew calmly self-extricated themselves and their infant patient from the wrecked fuselage of their crashed helicopter as fuel poured. See photos of a crew member holding the infant while climbing out of the overturned aircraft.

Humility is a byproduct of serving others

The videos and photos from each of these incidents are more suspenseful than any Marvel movie. Just seconds were the difference between life and death. I admire the calmness under pressure, the focus on immediate actions to save lives and the teamwork displayed in each of these incidents.

Typically, in post-incident interviews, we’ll hear comments like, “I am no hero. I was just doing my job,” or “all the people I work with would have done the same. I just happened to be the one who was there.” Unforced humility is a natural byproduct of a decision to serve the community and take care of others.

As much as I am in awe of the everyday actions of people in public safety, I am even more impressed by their humility. If given the same opportunity, I think many of you would have done the same without a second thought because you’ve dedicated your life to serving others.

Soak up the gratitude

In the grand scheme, only a small group of firefighters, police officers, EMTs and paramedics responded to these incidents and are being recognized as heroes by the public, their department leaders, local and national media, and elected officials. That’s OK, but you can still fill yourself up with the gratitude of an adoring public. Head up, shoulders back and chest out because you are part of a professional community that is admired for serving others. Respect for one of us is respect for all of us.

Share your stories

Even though video has become ubiquitous, there aren’t body cameras, security cameras or smartphone-wielding bystanders at every incident. I am certain that you’ve had your own moments of heroism, so be proud of your personal acts of courage, selflessness, compassion and service to others, even if moments passed without a video and an appearance in your local newspaper, “People” magazine or the “Fox & Friends” morning show. Don’t hold in your proud moments.

It’s OK to share your pride in service, dedication to others and acts of kindness with your friends, family and coworkers. It’s possible to be humble and grateful for the chance to serve without being boastful. Make the people you helped the star of your stories and you’ll be rewarded with admiration for you as well admiration for the rest of us.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions by emailing him at