The courageous men and women in our lives

Looking forward to a relaxing evening, I sit down on my favorite place, surrounded by the softness of pillows, throws and best of all, my dog Jordan. I turn the TV on to catch the weather before taking in a movie. Little do I know, as I push 9 on the dial, what I’m getting myself into.

It’s been another wild winter in Chicagoland. Even Tom Skilling, our local weather guru, is flabbergasted at his inability to forecast a three foot snow event or 50 degrees and sunny for the following day. Instead of seeing Tom on the screen I am struck by a live incident of a man dressed in orange with yellow stripes. He is flat on his belly, crawling carefully across an icy pond, rope in hand. His destination is too far for the camera to catch clearly. As the crowd is scanned, I see variety of reactions on their faces. Some are crying, some are cheering the rescuer on and others look like scared rabbits. There rescue vehicles, lights flashing, which add to the drama of what those of us at home cannot see. Someone has got to be in danger there and this officer is risking his life to save someone he doesn’t even know. Of course, that’s his job but I, as well, find tears welling up in my eyes.

I’ve always had a soft spot for men and women of courage, those who put their lives on the line as they dive into the depths of a raging ocean, hang from a helicopter, or run into a building that is crumbling before them for the lives of others they will never meet again. The single-focused devotion this must take is not something I could pull off. “Or could I?” I wonder to myself as I look down at my handsome Cocker Spaniel, pulling him closely to me.

I look at the television again and television crews have arrived which brings more light to the scene. The interviews begin. “How did she wonder out onto the ice?” “Did you see her go astray?” “How did she fall into the ice?”

“Oh my! Someone has fallen into the ice! And it’s a she!” I think about rushing to the scene. But realize the distance alone makes this notion absurd. “All I wanted to do was catch the weather!” I groan outloud. “This is why I don’t watch TV, I can’t stand watching the pain.”

Back to the TV, things are getting worse. The temperatures have fallen since the sun has gone down and the victim’s hole is icing over. The word from the crowd is that she could drown as the hole closes. Aside from the worries of hypothermia, the thin ice near the sufferer makes it treacherous for the officer to reach. Still, the men continue their work. They are not quitters.

This situation could actually rob me of sleep tonight. You’d think I was in that hole, as I start to feel my body get cold and cover myself with a blanket.

People on the sidelines have brought mugs of coffee out for police, the fire department, even the camera crews. I see one woman passing donuts around. Who is it out in that hole? A wife? A daughter?

I remember my father who was awarded the Purple Heart for saving a handful of men after his plane crashed into a mountain in World War II. Yes, my father was a good man and a courageous man. He used to tell us that story time after time, how he dashed into his burning plane and pulled each man out one at a time. He didn’t even know he was hurt until he woke up a hospital the next day.

My heart warms for these men of courage. The cloud-filled sky has created a blackened night and the temperatures continue to drop. The camera quickly shifts to a scene of a few neighborhood men who have gone out onto the ice to, “take things into their own hands.” The neighborhood is in an uproar as they have drawn a line in the sand. People scream obscenities back and forth over enemy lines. Neighbors who had, hours ago, banded together for a single purpose and now, in the name of needing to be right, could cause a tragedy.

The newscasters go wild, one interview after another. The victim and the officer has become irrelevant. I am sickened by this and almost shut the TV off and go to bed. There is no winning or losing when people are thinking with their emotions. Then I see the light. An enormous light coming from the sky. A helicopter has caught the eye of one level-headed camera man and follows it as a brawny man, hanging by a rope, first attempts to rescue the officer on the ice, who adamantly waves him on to the icy hole.

I watch carefully as the man on the rope spreads a net and reaches a beefy arm out to the flailing person in the icy waters. I swear I can see his biceps bulging through his uniform. I would feel safe in the arms of this man. I try to shake off the thought that I wish it were me in that whole.

As the crowd comes to a hush, I hear a loud yelping. The camera quickly changes view to the hole in the water. I finally see the victim under the lights of the chopper. It’s a dog! The helicopter slowly lowers the rescuer close to the small ice-covered dog who has been, for hours, grabbing onto the edges of the ice and keeping his head above water. I grab Jordan and sob as I am astounded and heart-touched by the feeling of oneness these courageous men must experience in order to put their own lives in danger to save a dog.

I sob for myself, I sob for Jordan, I sob for my Father and for these men, as only they know what it’s like to contain within them such courage.

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