Most of us are fortunate enough to have never found ourselves in a desperate domestic situation where, through an act of moral cowardice on the part of evildoers, our lives and the lives of those of us around us are at risk. We’ve seen despicable acts of this nature all too often in our lifetimes – from the Columbine killing rampage, to 9-11, to the deadly Virginia Tech shooting spree which left 32 dead. In all of those horrific tragedies, our sense of grief, anger, and moral outrage envelops us and in the days and months after they occur, it is hard to see what “good” – if any – came out of such senseless brutality. But over time, stories emerge of bold courage and selfless heroism & sacrifice which provide some small measure of comfort in the long aftermath of unthinkable tragedies.
With Columbine, it was business teacher Dave Sanders who ran into the line of fire in an attempt to urge high school students to safety from two deranged teen madmen and in the process was killed on April 20, 1999. On 9-11-01, you had firefighters who ran up flight after flight of stairs in both WTC towers, not knowing if they’d ever make it out. Some did. Some did not. Same same with reports of numerous civilians who were in the towers who either helped rush their colleagues to safety or died trying to save them. And then there were the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. In the case of Virginia Tech, one such example was Holocaust survivor and VT engineering science and mechanics professor Liviu Librescu, who blocked the doorway of his classroom with his body so his students could escape a killer’s rage through a window. All but one of his students successfully escaped on that spring day April 16, 2007. He did not.
In the Aurora mass murders that happened last week, the slow wheels of justice are turning as the killer faced his first day in court this week. But rather than focus on him, I’d like to focus on the victims – who, tragically, are no longer around to speak for themselves. Last Friday, I wrote about 24 year-old aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi, who narrowly escaped the Eaton Center shootings in Toronto just last month, only to be fatally shot down in a movie theater in Aurora, CO while excitedly watching a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” 11 others died that night, including four young men who sacrificed their lives to shield their girlfriends from the gunman’s random but methodical shooting. ABC News reports:
Of the 12 people killed in the Aurora theater shooting, four of them were men who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their girlfriends. Now, each of these women are struggling to come to terms with both their grief and their gratitude.
Alexander Teves, 24, attended the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” with his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren , 24, and another friend.
When suspected gunman James Holmes opened fire in the sold out theater, Teves immediately lunged to block Lindgren from the gunfire.
“I was really, really confused at first about what was going on, so confused,” Lindgren told ABC News. “But, it’s like Alex didn’t even hesitate. Because I sat there for a minute, not knowing what was going on, and he held me down and he covered my head and he said, ‘Shh. Stay down. It’s ok. Shh just stay down.’ So I did.”
Teves blocked the bullets from Lindgren but he was shot and killed. She was not hit.
Elsewhere in theater nine, John Larimer and his girlfriend Julia Vojtsek went through a similar situation.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, 26, and his girlfriend Julia Vojtsek, 23, were sitting in the middle of the theater when the shooting began.
“John immediately and instinctively covered me and brought me to the ground in order to protect me from any danger,” Vojtsek wrote in a statement. “Moments later, John knowingly shielded me from a spray of gunshots. It was then I believe John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me. I feel very strongly that I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness.”
In addition to these two couples, Matthew McQuinn, 27, and Jon Blunk, 26, died saving their girlfriends in similar ways. Their girlfriends Samantha Yowler, 26, and Jansen Young, 21, did not respond to requests for comment.
For those of you wondering if the age of chivalry is lost, don’t. In spite of the numerous stories we so often read about people who stand by and do nothing while fights break out in front of them, and the like, there are many, many more heroes like the selfless gentlemen mentioned above. Same same for women, too. It doesn’t always involve giving your life – sometimes it’s a simple act of courtesy and respect. Thankfully, most of them will never be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice stateside (although any who are in the military already have been asked or will in the future, naturally, but in the role of a United States soldier abroad) but if they ever are, eventually we’ll read their stories while in the midst of demanding justice for their killers.
I’ve often wondered how I would react if I were in a similar situation. If given the opportunity to save others even at great risk to myself, would I? Hopefully I’ll never have to find out, but if I do, I pray I will be able to instinctively feel God’s guiding hand on me no matter what happens.
“Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” – General George S. Patton