Celebrating Suffolk’s unsung heroes

Published 10:28 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There’s something heroic about the human spirit, something that shows as strongly in the moments and days after a tragedy as in its midst. It may not be easy to be a hero in the face of a crisis, but the spur-of-the-moment heroism found during a natural or manmade disaster is often almost reflexive or instinctive. Surely, it’s an important part of human nature, and the recipients of on-the-spot heroism are right to be thankful for those who rushed to their aid.

Still, though, there’s something even more incredible about the protracted, considered heroism that it takes to hold a community together after the immediate crisis has passed — when the instinct is so often for isolation and self-pity. No less are they heroes who rally to support their neighbors in the face of their own loss in the weeks and months that follow such disasters than are the firefighters, EMTs and police officers who rush into unfolding catastrophe. Their heroism is merely of a different sort.

Suffolk has its share of those brave heroes who risk life and limb to serve and protect their neighbors. Those men and women were vital to the relief effort during last year’s devastating tornado.

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But what’s incredible are the number of everyday heroes who were there long after the fire trucks and ambulances were gone, long after the news cameras and politicians had left town. Despite their own losses and their own worries about the future, they pulled together with their neighbors to begin rebuilding their communities and their lives.

The Driver community will celebrate those heroes — and the others — on Saturday during Driver Alive, which will serve as a kind of official re-opening of the village after a year of hard work. Hillpoint-area neighbors did something similar on Tuesday, gathering in a now-vacant lot where a home had once sat to celebrate the “blessing” of the tornado. That people who lost everything they owned in a few seconds of violent wind could consider it a blessing is its own kind of heroism and demonstrates the incredible human spirit functioning at its highest level.

For all the expected — and well-deserved — praise of the emergency workers, the churches, the community agencies and even the politicians in the wake of Suffolk’s tornado, it’s important not to overlook one more set of heroes: the victims who chose not to give up in the face of their losses. Suffolk wouldn’t be the place it is without them.