Every year around this time, whether I like it or not, I’m reminded of what it truly means to be a hero. This will be the ninth time I’ve had to sit through this particular form of torture, but, like any good American, I’m here at home, watching television. The special programs help my brain reinforce the idea that a hero is somebody that runs into a burning building to save people; someone who will rush a cockpit, kill some terrorists, and purposely crash a plane to preserve the lives of others; someone who, against all odds, survives this or that or whatever, makes it back to their family, and lives a happy, quiet life with the occasional interview on NBC. That is what a hero is, what a hero does, and anything less is, well, unheroic.
Even though my brother was killed on September 11, 2001, I know that most people wouldn’t consider him to be a hero. That’s because late that Monday night he got piss drunk and wrapped his little white sedan around a telephone pole on a remote road outside of Las Vegas, killing him and a friend. They didn’t find them until early the next morning, so while most people in my time zone woke up to chaos and burning buildings on television, I was at home with my parents, grieving for other reasons. Every year since then, when people unite and talk about the heroes of New York and Flight whatever, I sit by myself and think about my brother, the unhero.
I want you to know it’s not true, my brother being unheroic. He taught me how to ride a bike and shoot rabbits and smoke without getting caught. He was a hero to me, even if the world wouldn’t see him that way. Anyways, I loved him.
I still can’t get over it … In fact, I almost have to laugh … An entire city, chock full of heroes … Heroes to spare and yet nothing left over.