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The definition of hero to me

Updated on December 8, 2015



I have been gathering my thoughts and digging deep from within to try and understand life, destiny, fate, tragedy, terrorism and heroism. A day that has changed all of us in so many ways and has affected families directly in a very sad and painful way was the fateful and tragic 11th day in September of 2001 when our nation and our world was shaken to its very core by the acts of terrorism fueled by hatred and prejudice by fanatical and misguided individuals whose only purpose in life was to inflict as much pain and suffering on innocent people in the name of their so called religion as they possibly could. It is now 9 years since the unthinkable became reality and as the years have passed it still defies comprehension and brings grown men to tears as they seek solace from their wives to help them through as they look to heal and move on.

As I look back on that day I just can't understand what motivates a terrorist to commit such horrific acts of violence against mankind and say they are justified for doing so in the name of their God. I saw the two extremes of human behavior that day and I saw what the terrorists did as I stood in disbelief at the tv set when the towers were hit by 2 large aircraft within the span of 20 minutes. I could not comprehend what I was seeing but I realized it was happening and as I saw such destruction and death unfolding as it was being transmitted live all I could do was cry and pray for all those innocent people on the planes and in the buildings who had perished in the instant of impact when the planes were deliberately crashed into the towers and the pentagon.

As this was happening and the news was capturing it all, they focused on the individuals responsible upon learning of them and caught them on tapes at the airports they were flying out of before they were to hijack each of the aircraft. They all seemed to be so cold and without feeling or emotion. They were determined to carry out these horrific acts of hatred and violence and they were willing to die in doing so. This was the worst quality of human nature that I saw that day as these individuals only wanted to kill and inflict pain and suffering on as many people as they could.

What I also saw that day was the heroics and bravery of the men and women who worked to help those in the building who they could. For some it was a lost cause due to the intense heat and the fact that they were too high up to get to. For those poor souls trapped their only escape was to jump to their death to escape being incinerated in the fires emanating from the points of impact of the large aircraft.

They were firemen, policemen, ironworkers, paramedics, doctors, nurses, businessmen and women all who put their lives on the line in the hope or expectation of saving lives. As people were running down the stairs in hope to exit the buildings there were the brave firemen, policemen and rescue workers running into the buildings and climbing the stairways to get to the trapped and those who required medical attention. I was amazed how brave these fine men and women were in their efforts and how they were so focused on their mission that they did not think of themselves and the elements of danger they faced. I'm sure they were scared but as a professional they had to separate and distance their emotions so they could do what they were supposed to which was to save lives and rescue all they could.

To me September 11th was the defining moment of what heroism is. When I saw those firemen going further into the building with all the chaos and screaming around them and with a breakdown in communication and such difficulty navigating the collapsing buildings I could not help but weep as I saw those towers begin to fall and realized the fate of those trapped and all the brave firemen and the other men and women answering the call of duty that day only to perish as a result of the brutal attacks inflicted by terrorists.

Major league baseball took time off to recognize the magnitude of the tragedies and when the baseball players came back to play their games they gave tribute to the real heroes, the firefighters, police and paramedics who were called into action on September 11th, 2001.

As I look at the definition of hero in the dictionary it does not seem to capture the full effect of what a hero truly is but I will present the definition as it reads which is listed as follows:

  1. remarkably brave person: somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown an admirable quality such as great courage or strength of character.

The other heroes that showed remarkable bravery and courage despite being in the worst possible situation they could be were the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who were on their cell phones to family and friends completely unaware what was happening that fateful day until they realized in those conversations that the World Trade Center was leveled after 2 planes crashed into the towers and the Pentagon was hit as well. Upon discovering their plane was hijacked and learning of the tragedies they knew they had to take action since they also were going down into a high profile target. They were not going to let those terrorists attack another site so they took action in a concerted effort knowing they would probably not survive and impeded the terrorists from carrying out their plan by interfering and gaining control of the cockpit. They were responsible for bringing the plane down by gaining control and managed to avoid a target by crashing into a field in Pennsylvania where they all perished. It was a tragic end for them but they were heroic in that they saved our nation from being attacked a third time and they died doing so.

I dedicate this article to all the brave men and women who died September 11th, 2001 and to a classmate of mine Carol Felice Gies whose husband, Ronnie Gies, a brave firefighter from Merrick, New York died that day doing what he did everyday which was saving lives and this day he made the ultimate sacrifice. I pray for my friend Carol and her family and I extend my condolences for her loss. God Bless all who lost their lives that day and for their families and friends to go on knowing their loved ones are safe.

I also wish to commemorate my dad who worked on the World Trade Center back in the early 1970's and was a very proud ironworker who always took pride in what he did and I am so very sad to not have him around anymore as he was always a strong influence in our life and he was very helpful to my son Matty, who loves his "Pop" very much.

I remember the day of the attacks speaking with him as we were in total disbelief and my dad knew the towers could not withstand that kind of punishment and when they went down I remember my dad and I both shedding a tear for all those who perished and for the buildings that were a symbol of our great city and a part of my dad's ironworker history.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sept 11 Tribute

Firefighter Tribute

The World Trade Center


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    • mquee profile image

      mquee 7 years ago from Columbia, SC

      That day in 2001 was a terribly sad one and you are right, there were two extremes of human behavior here.

      It is inconcievable that someone can hate so intensely that they would commit such an act. As Americans we may have our problems, but when help is needed the citizens here are always willing no matter where in the world help is needed.

      Thank you for reminding us of the sacrifices as well as heroic efforts that many made.