"A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know that the world hadn't ended."
The quote comes from a movie, it really doesn't matter which one. Scriptwriters are paid to evoke emotion and entertain an audience and here, they have planted their finger firmly on it. This exemplifies the people in Christchurch on March 15 and how they responded when prayers of faith in two mosques were sickeningly interrupted with gunfire.
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Today, the Weekend Herald declares the people of Christchurch as Our Heroes 2019. The Herald has had a proud record of saluting those we value most for more than 25 years, and Our Heroes is a new way of acknowledging them which builds on that tradition.
The People's Choice goes to Blair Vining, who died on October 10. His wife Melissa said if her husband was still alive he would have said: "I'm just an ordinary guy doing what anyone would do."
"But to us there was nothing ordinary about his love for life, family, friends and New Zealanders. His unique, positive outlook and courage to fight for us and New Zealand whilst he was fighting for his life will bring us comfort, hope and pride for the rest of our days."
American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said being a hero was not being braver than anyone else, but being brave for 10 minutes longer. Vining was braver for an entire year, which he dedicated to making it possible for others to survive cancer.
The people of Christchurch are standout heroes in our judges' eyes as they continued to act in selflessly courageous ways despite knowing full well the danger. People ran and walked into the hail of bullets in attempts to save others. Who among these was more or less heroic than the other?
While seeking her paraplegic husband, Fared, Hasna Ahmed helped other women and children from the path of harm and returned to the main mosque where the men were under sustained gunfire. She revived an unconscious man and urged him to flee while she remained.
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Len Peneha lay exposed atop his wall adjoining the Al Noor Mosque, dragging terrified people to safety, while his daughter screamed "save them, save them!".
Abdul Aziz who threw an Eftpos card reader at the gunman and picked up a discarded weapon only to find it spent of ammunition. Then he tried to taunt the gunman to chase him, to draw his attention away from the mosque.
The police and the emergency services who went into the streets, knowing a gunman was on a killing spree but not knowing whether it was yet over.
And, after the gunfire ended, the people of Christchurch who responded to the calamity by putting aside their selves and their needs to pour care and compassion on the victims and the community. Who among them gave more than we will ever know?
As the voting and the judging drew to a close, a new tide of heroes answered the call on Whakaari/White Island. Recognition of their efforts continues today in our news pages - a reminder again, as if we needed it, that this courageous nation will always rise from tragedy.
It's often opined heroes who act without apparent fear in terrifying situations have some sort of special attribute or powers. Almost to a man and woman, the people hailed as heroes readily dismiss this.
Perhaps the last word on such matters belongs to the same movie character (Batman, incidentally) who was also scripted the first words in this editorial: "I have one power; I never give up."