"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids


On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America. They hijacked four passenger jets, crashing two of them into the World Trade Center's twin towers and a third into the Headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense at the Pentagon, causing tremendous damage. The fourth plane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside, killing everyone on board but falling short of its intended target because of the heroic efforts of some passengers. In addition to the other casualties, the collapse of both Trade Center towers killed nearly three thousand innocent people.

The 9-11 attacks had immediate and overwhelming effects upon American citizens. Each of us remembers exactly where we were and what we were doing at the time we heard the news. The event changed all of our lives in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. September 11th quickly became a touchstone of patriotism for a nation that pulled together due to the attack.

Along with the themes of enduring faith, divine grace, the spirit of hope, and the power of prayer that came out of the midst of our nation's darkest hour, the tragedy taught us more than we ever wanted to know about heroes. We will never forget those who lost their lives, and we will be forever indebted to the heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

Patriot Day was designated in memory of the heroes and victims of 9-11. On this day, the President directs that the American flag be flown at half-staff and displayed from individual homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments. The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 am (EST), marking the time of first plane crash on September 11, 2001.

Let's compare the definition of "hero" as found in an old dictionary and a modern dictionary:

Hero - a man of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms. (Webster's 1828 Dictionary)

Hero - an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

It appears from the above definitions that the basic characteristics of a hero have not changed much over the years. Heroes can be fictional or mythical characters, adventurous explorers, gallant knights, powerful presidents, freedom fighters, fearless leaders, pioneering astronauts, famous inventors, strong athletes, religious figures, faithful missionaries, police officers, rescue workers, teachers and coaches, ordinary people who overcome extraordinary obstacles, and anyone who undergoes great risk in reaching an important goal.

There are many kinds of modern-day heroes, in all walks of life. These heroes can be men, women, and children of all ages. While a few heroes become rich and famous, most give of themselves but don't expect anything in return. It is not necessarily the big, famous deeds we admire the most. Some people grow to be real heroes by doing many small, good deeds. People perform brave and selfless acts every day. The honorable efforts of those unsung heroes are just as noteworthy as the noble deeds of well-known celebrities.

What is a Hero?

Who is your favorite hero or heroine? When we think of heroes, certain qualities come to mind - those inner traits that make up their character. Heroes possess a sense of excellence, compassion, and perseverance. They desire to make things better, courageously meet life's challenges, and set a good example for others to imitate. A hero is someone you admire and who inspires you. A hero encourages you to be successful, to strive for what is right, to do your best and be all that you want to be.

Do you have what it takes to be a hero? Coach Joe Oswald, home school coordinator of Athletes in Training, hosted a week-long Hero Camp near Payson, AZ from August 18-23. Coach Joe said, "My prayer and passion for Hero Camp is that…children will realize that God is looking for real heroes-people who are honest, humble, helpful, healthy, and holy." Several local homeschooled children who attended this camp were: Leanne Albillar, Brittanie Chisum, John Chisum, Jaclyn Ciezadlo, Melissa Maynard, and Peter Olsen. The following points highlight what they learned:

  • Heroes are honest. Many people listen to the truth, but heroes must be willing to practice the truth. Be honest with yourself and others.
  • Heroes are humble. Humble people are teachable and have a desire to learn from others.
  • Heroes are helpful. Heroes are willing to serve others with love that is unconditional and unselfish, they show they care by how they share, and they use their talents for the good of others.
  • Heroes are healthy. Heroes have healthy bodies, healthy buddies, and healthy boundaries. They eat and drink right, exercise regularly, associate with others who challenge them and give them courage to be their best, and run away from those who would corrupt them. They aim for God's glory in all they do.
  • Heroes are holy. A hero loves what is right, hates what is wrong, and resists temptation.

    9/11 Heroes

    You never know when you might be called upon to be a hero. However, keep in mind that being a hero can often mean great personal sacrifice. We have heard many stories about the heroes of September 11. Among them were the New York City firefighters who ran up the stairs as everyone else was running down. Then there was Todd Beamer, a passenger on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, whose famous last words were, "Let's roll!" Decals featuring those memorable words have since been applied on hundreds of Air Force planes.

    Todd Beamer's wife, Lisa, explains, "He was always a team player. He was always cool under pressure." An Airphone operator who Todd spoke with while on the plane informed Lisa later what Todd had said. "I don't think we're going to get out of this thing," he told the operator. "I'm going to have to go on faith." Discussing a plan to try to overpower the hijackers, Todd declared, "It's what we have to do." Todd asked the operator to pray with him, and together they recited The Lord's Prayer over the phone. Todd then recited Psalm 23: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil…" The operator heard Todd say, "Jesus help me," followed by "Are you guys ready? Let's roll!"

    Lisa recalled how her husband was very serious about his work, yet childlike when playing with his boys. Todd was raised by parents who provided a strong spiritual foundation. Proverbs 22:6 was their family motto, the Bible was read daily, and weekly worship was a priority. Todd's stay-at-home mother was always there for him, and Todd's father made time for him despite a busy work schedule. Todd attended Christian schools through college, and was blessed with a number of positive role models. Consequently, Todd's heroic behavior did not surprise his family. According to his father, "The reason Todd acted with conviction and courage in those extraordinary moments when Flight 93 was falling to the ground was because he had maintained his integrity and values in the ordinary days of his life."

    Did You Know…?

    The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting in Phoenix sponsors the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes. On the walls of the Hall of Heroes, they honor firefighters who have died in the line of duty or who have been decorated for heroism, including photographs and descriptions of the heroic acts. The Hall of Heroes also has a special exhibit consisting of the names, companies, and photographs of 343 FDNY firefighters who died at Ground Zero.

    All of these firefighters are also listed in a computerized database of firefighters who have been recognized for bravery, both locally and nationally. In addition to civilian firefighters, they plan to include military firefighters. They welcome submissions of names, with verification in the form of a citation, magazine or newspaper article, official correspondence, or related materials. Visitors to the Hall of Heroes can use the computer to call up the records and obtain printouts.

    Our Nation's First Heroes

    The Founding Fathers of this country were true heroes who deserve our recognition and honor. Fifty-six men signed their names to the document declaring independence from Great Britain. What kind of men were they? None of them were rowdy rebels. In fact, twenty-four were lawyers or judges, eleven were merchants, nine were farmers or plantation owners, five were physicians, one was a minister, another was a shipbuilder, some were educators, and several were sons of pastors. They were all intelligent, successful professionals. They had wealth and security, but valued liberty more. They weren't afraid to stand up for what they believed in as they pledged: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

    These men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing that the penalty could be death. They were striving for a dream that wasn't even guaranteed, risking everything that they had worked hard for. Along the way they had to make sacrifices and face losses. Five of the fifty-six signers were captured by the British as traitors, imprisoned for about a year and then released. Fifteen had their homes ransacked and burned. Several others had their property vandalized, stolen, or destroyed. A few had to sell their property to pay for debts due to war losses or commercial setbacks. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Ten died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. A few of the men and their families were forced to move or go into hiding. Despite the hardships, they stood tall and unwavering. Not a single one of them defected or failed to honor his pledge.

    "I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, that those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord." ~Wilford Woodruff (1898)

    Recommended Reading

    Max, by Bob Graham. (A colorful cartoon-like story about the son of superhero parents. Max is also destined for the superhero life, and he even wears a superhero suit. There's only one problem - Max can't fly. Finally one day, he leaps into the air to save a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. Max's mother decides that it's not her son's job to catch crooks, but to be "a small hero doing quiet deeds. The world needs more of those.")

    American Heroes, 1735 to 1900, by Morrie Greenberg, 1998. (Fifteen true stories of American men and women, all of whom became heroes through their work in different fields; includes discussion questions, research projects, and writing activities.)

    The Children's Book of Heroes, by William J. Bennett, 1997. (This book is meant to aid parents in giving young people heroes to look up to, through tales that come to life in Michael Hague's magically imaginative paintings.)

    First Facts About American Heroes, by David C. King, 1996. (An excellent introduction to the most influential and important people in American history. Each person's biography is presented in a two-page spread with a large-format portrait, timeline, facts and photos. Special chronologies and introductory passages on important periods in American history help put the facts in perspective.)

    Faces Of Ground Zero: Portraits Of The Heroes Of September 11, 2001, by Joe McNally. (For this historic photo project, a LIFE magazine photographer took more than 150 larger-than-life color portraits of Ground Zero heroes and survivors-firefighters, policemen, volunteers, doctors, nurses, survivors, widows, children. A dignified tribute to the heroes and victims of 9/11.)

    Let's Roll! By Lisa Beamer (with Ken Abraham), 2002. (This story of ordinary people and extraordinary courage will inspire you with its message of hope, courage, and faith.)

    Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, by B.J. Lossing, 1995. (Originally published in 1848 and reprinted by WallBuilder Press, this book sheds light on the lives and virtues of each of the fifty-six signers.)

    The Action Hero's Handbook: How to Catch a Great White Shark, Perform the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Track a Fugitive, and Dozens of Other TV and Movie Skills, by David Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht, 2002. (Everyone wants to be an action hero-and now you can. The Action Hero's Handbook is the ultimate guide to an action-packed lifestyle, with genuine step-by-step instructions on interrogating a suspect, catching a great white shark, performing the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, navigating a ventilation shaft, and much more. All information is reality-based and comes from a host of experts (including FBI agents, marine biologists, karate champions, and air duct cleaners). This dynamic little handbook will teach you how to keep up with the Indiana Joneses! From the author of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.)

    Recommended Websites

    http://greatamericans.com/ - Read stories about real American heroes in law enforcement, the military, fire and rescue.

    www.post-gazette.com/headlines/20011028flt93mainstoryp7.asp - Forty lives, one destiny: includes a timeline of Flight 93's path and biographies of the crew members and passengers, including Todd Beamer.

    http://myhero.com - Have you ever witnessed acts of extreme courage? generosity? kindness? ability? A family member, co-worker, teacher, artist, sports figure or even a pet can qualify to be My Hero. The real-people stories submitted will be used to present much-needed role models for youngsters. My Hero is an award-winning not-for-profit educational web project that celebrates the best of humanity. Their mission is to enlighten and inspire people of all ages with an ever-growing internet archive of hero stories from around the world. The My Hero web site hosts thousands of stories of remarkable individuals written by children and adults alike. These stories serve to remind us that we all have the potential to overcome great obstacles and achieve our dreams by following in the footsteps of our heroes. My Hero invites you, your family, school or organization to take part in this interactive web project. By publicly honoring your hero, you reward those who have made a difference and bring new hope to a global online community.


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.

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