When a Hero Comes Along...
As famed British author Salman Rushdie once wrote, "the time has come when the mass audience is ready to enjoy diversity in its cultural diet."
There is a very long tradition of legendary martial arts heroes in the Chinese culture. These martial arts heroes show great courage in fighting against vice, to defend the safety of others, and they are ready to sacrifice their lives for a higher moral value.
These qualities are not reserved for Chinese heroes, however, they can be found in the heroes of all cultures. The values from which heroism spring are universal.
The Chinese martial arts hero does not necessarily look tough or masculine, but he must have extraordinary integrity, morality and great internal power as well as explosive physical power. Such a hero is capable of various stunts: he can touch a certain point on one's body to make him seem immobile. And, he can blow a big tree away without even laying a finger on it. But, the deepest internal power can't be awakened without the moral integrity, without which, a person can never be called such a true martial arts hero, no matter how much physical power he has.
A real Chinese martial arts hero never strikes his enemy if the latter is unable to fight back. He places faith between friends and brothers above personal emotion. And, he holds to these morals so stubbornly that he is ready to give up his own life, love and happiness for them. In this sense, a Chinese hero is the loneliest kind. In his life-long search for ultimate justice and righteousness, he turns his back on mundane values. Authorities despise him, people misunderstand him and known villains continuously plot to get rid of him.
He himself sometimes loses his way in this spiritual odyssey. Philosophical meditation accompanies his growth of power. As he acquires more philosophical depth in his thoughts, his physical power increases. He shows amazing calmness and grace while in the face of grave danger, however so disproportionate the balance of power between him and his enemy.
A lonely hero rarely has partners, but friendship is indispensable. Friends meet and part like shooting stars on different tracks, brightening each other but never emotionally reliant on each other. True friends like that can entrust each other with their lives. And once a commitment is made, it is to be honoured for his whole life.
More than 2,000 years ago, Jing Ke set out to assassinate Ying Zheng, the king of the state of the Qin, who later became Emperor Shi Huang, the first emperor that unified China, in a futile attempt to save the state of Yan from being annexed.
A common value for a true martial arts hero at that time was that he would die for the master who valued him. Since the prince of the state of Yan greatly appreciated and accommodated him, Jing Ke had no other choice but to take up the Prince of Yan's mission impossible to assassinate his royal adversary. He knew well that, whether or not he succeeded, there was no way back home for him. Jing failed in his attempt and he was killed in the Qin palace.
This kind of heroic mentality still exists in Chinese ideology. Legendary martial arts stories always sell well. Urban white-collars, after spending a dull day in their offices, dream of fulfilling heroic deeds on their sleepy metro ride home. But, most of them would prefer a happy ending to their adventures, like the endings in Jackie Chan action movies.
Martial arts attracts a large audience, which ensures popularity for several Hong Kong novelists among Chinese across the world. People say the basic qualities that make heroes are the same in all cultures. It's only the process of how they achieve the heroic deeds that differ.
In earlier years, Chinese action movies did not draw a large Western audience as the action in such movies mostly involved two people fighting with their bare hands for five minutes.
But nowadays, Hollywood invites Chinese martial arts experts from Hong Kong to design fighting scenes for movies like "The Matrix."
One of Hong Kong's most famous directors, John Woo, successfully blended Chinese aestheticism with Western movies such as "MI2," (Mission Impossible 2), where he brought pigeons into the fighting scenes to highlight the temporary quietness and great tension before a fatal encounter.
But, there are many more actual heroes outside of the martial artists we've come to admire in films.
War Heroes are Not Alone...
While most American's are familar with the numerous historic tales of our country's many famed war heroes who've fought for our freedom, which have been duly documented since the Revolutionary War, WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars, and even on up to the current war in the Middle East, many of us often overlook the so-called "everyday" heroes that our society commonly produces.
Just ordinary people trying to make a significant difference in providing a higher degree of assistance that may ensure more improved safety in our daily lives, whether it be because of their genuine personal or professional concerns for general public safety, health issues, structural designs or related logistics.
These are the heroes we call Firemen, Policemen, Medical professionals and Civil Service Workers.
Man Died a Hero in Stabbing Rampage...
Northampton, Pa. A 53-year-old man who rushed over to help when he heard screaming at his next-door neighbor's house was stabbed to death as he got through the front door, and police found his body with three others, according to the victim's brother. David Zernhelt, 36, of Allentown, identified his older brother, Steven Zernhelt, a married father of three, as one of the victims of a Saturday rampage in a Northampton borough.
Police found the bodies of three men and a woman, each stabbed multiple times, in the brick twin house about 70 miles north of Philadelphia, according to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. State police held a suspect in custody but had not released his name or the names of the dead. Authorities planned to release details that Sunday afternoon. Zernhelt said that his brother heard screams from his neighbor's house, ran over to help and was attacked.
"He got through the front door, and the suspect stabbed him to death," Zernhelt said. "I'll say this about my brother: He died a hero to me because he was trying to go over there and do whatever he could to help. I love him, I always will," he said. Morganelli confirmed one of the victims was a neighbor who "went over to help and became a victim."
Property tax records identify the owner of the home as Denise Merhi, who purchased it in January 2007. Neighbors said she lived in the home with her two children, her father and her grandfather.
Several people milling around the street in Northampton, a town of around 9,500 people, described it as a quiet neighborhood.
"It's so strange to have it happen here," said Lee Danbar, 37, who grew up in the area and lives a couple of blocks away. "It was always a safe area."
Police discovered the bodies after responding to a car crash about a half-mile from the house. The driver was covered in blood and police knew it wasn't all from the crash, Morganelli said. The driver's statements led officers to the house, he said. The driver was hospitalized with injuries believed to have been suffered in the crash.
Steven Zernhelt, who hailed from a family of 10 children, worked as a heating and air conditioning instructor. He and his wife have three grown children.
"Growing up, he always tried to resolve situations," his younger brother said. "He was the political family member of the brothers and sisters, who would always try to get everybody to get along with each other. So it wasn't surprising that he would try to help his neighbor like that."
Musician is a Hero to his Community, Family and Bandmates...
In another act of true heroism, talented Medina Lake bassist Matthew Leone, who is now seriously ill after attempting to stop a violent man from beating up a woman in the streets in his locale earlier this summer, is now struggling for his life.
The attacker was beating up his own wife when Leone tried to intervene. The man then turned on Leone, beating the musician to a pulp before both he and his other half fled the scene.
Leone needed a third of his skull to be removed in order to survive the injuries resulting from the beating. Although Leone is now starting to recover from the incident, neither he nor his family have health insurance and the bill for the bass player's treatment is likely to be significant.
An online campaign, supported by Pledge Music (who helped the band raise money earlier in the year to fund a new EP), has been set up to raise the cash needed for his ongoing treatments.
Matthew's brother Nathan, also Madina Lake's frontman, wrote this weekend: "On behalf of Matthew, myself, our family and our extended Medina Lake family, we are absolutely floored by the compassion, love and support shown from people around the world.
We've never experienced anything like it and to be honest, we're not even sure what we could say that would accurately express our gratitude and appreciation. I'll be posting a comprehensive update online on Matthew's condition, prognosis and plans for the immediate future shortly."
The Hero of Mrs. Rodgers' Classroom...
Suddenly there was frantic pounding on the door. Neva Rogers, a 62-year-old English teacher, rushed into the classroom, breathless. "Somebody's shooting out there!" Rogers said to co-teacher Mrs. Dodds and her students.
Just a few minutes earlier, a young man in a black trench coat, his hair spiked into thorns, had walked into the building carrying three guns. One of the security guards stationed at the main entrance, Derrick Brun, confronted him. Even though the guard was unarmed, the gunman shot him twice, killing him.
Then he fired another shot down the hallway, narrowly missing Rogers. She quickly locked the door and snapped off the lights. "Get in back!" she told the students. "Hide!"
Although startled, student Jeff May quickly managed to flip a table up on its side, spilling his math book and papers to the floor as he knelt behind the makeshift bunker. Nearby crouched his best friend, Dewayne Lewis, and another classmate, Alicia White. For months, May had had a crush on White, but he hadn't yet mustered the courage to ask her out.
The classroom was absolutely silent. Suddenly there were shots in the hallway outside, loud booms that sounded like textbooks slammed heavily to the floor. As seconds ticked by, the shots boomed louder, closer.
An instant later, the window beside the locked door was shattered by a shotgun blast. A burly figure in a trench coat and combat boots climbed through the two-foot-wide opening. May recognized Jeff Weise. Although the two boys both lived on the reservation, they had never spoken.
Other students sometimes picked on the troubled boy. For the past few months, Weise had been tutored at home. He was depressed and being treated for suicidal tendencies. Doctors had prescribed Prozac to try to get him into a better balance. But, today Weise carried a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
On his face was a frightening smile.
"God save us," whispered Mrs. Rogers to her fellow teacher Mrs. Dodds.
Weise looked over at her. He leveled his .40-caliber and fired. The bullet struck her in the head, and she slumped to the floor, dead. He then turned to the students huddled in the back of the room. "Do you guys believe in God?" he asked.
"No," answered one boy, Chon Gai' la Morris. May said nothing.
Weise pointed his gun and opened fire. Boom. May watched his best friend Dewayne slump. Boom. Alicia White, May's crush, crumpled. Boom, Boom, Boom! Classmates Chanelle Rosebear, Chase Lussier and Thurlene Stillday lay fatally wounded.
The killer aimed his gun again and squeezed the trigger. Click. It was empty. He reached to reload.
As soon as Weise started shooting, Jeff May thought he has got to stop this guy. At six-foot-three and 300 pounds, he realized he was one of the few kids who might have a chance against the gunman, who stood six feet tall and weighed about 250.
May was a varsity football player, but he was no tough guy. Still, he thought, if I can slow him down, maybe I can save some lives. At least he might buy a little time until police arrived.
May figured his best chance was to surprise Weise, take him down. Glancing around for a weapon, he saw nothing. Then he realized he was still clutching the pencil he'd used to calculate his algebra problems.
In one motion, May lunged at the shooter and jabbed the pencil hard into his side. But, something deflected the blow. It turned out Weise was wearing a bulletproof vest swiped from his police officer grandfather, Daryl Lussier.
Earlier that afternoon, Weise had stopped at Lussier's house, where he shot and killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, Michelle Sigana.
Then Weise had grabbed the keys to Lussier's patrol car and drove to the school. No one knows what set Weise off that day. But, he was clearly determined to kill as many people as he could.
May tried to wrestle him to the ground, but Weise stubbornly held his own. Then he managed to raise his reloaded pistol and fire right at May's face.
May saw a bright flash of light and collapsed hard on the floor. The bullet had entered his right cheek, fractured his jaw and lodged in his neck, near his vertebrae. Blood splattered Weise's black boots.
The two had grappled for just enough time, witnesses estimate, to spare the lives of the remaining dozen people in the classroom. In total, Weise spent less than ten minutes at the high school, but left eight people dead and another seven wounded in the deadliest school shooting since Columbine.
Four Red Lake police officers arrived and exchanged gunfire with Weise in the hallway outside of Rodger's and Dodds's classroom. One officer shot him three times. The troubled boy staggered back into the classroom and fatally shot himself in the head.
Speaking for herself and the other survivors, Dodds says Jeff May saved their lives when he jumped at the killer. His brave action did not surprise her. "I totally would expect that of him," she said.
May was airlifted to MeritCare Hospital, 105 miles away in Fargo, North Dakota. He suffered a stroke that immobilized his left side and required surgery to remove the bullet. For many tense hours, his family members feared they would lose him. He is currently recovering, slowly, with two daily hourlong sessions each of physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Still, lying in his hospital bed two months after the shooting, May says if he had to relive that day, he would once again abandon the shelter of the overturned table and try to stop the shooter.
Why? "To make sure so many people don't die," he says.
AMAM Top 10 Heroes of the Last Decade:
1. The passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania (September 11, 2001) - The men and women aboard United Flight 93 fought against the hijackers who had killed the crew and taken over the flight, and as a result, these brave individuals stopped the hijacked plane from striking its intended target which many believe might have been the White House. These courageous souls sacrificed themselves in order to save the lives of others.
2. The firefighters, police officers, rescue workers, nurses, and other helpers who gave their lives to help save others in the World Trade Center attacks (September 11, 2001) - Many of these men and women sacrificed their own lives by going into the crumbling Twin Towers to try and save others who otherwise would have had no hope of survival. The examples of these heroes show how one does what is right no matter what the results may be.
3. Liviu Librescu who protected his students in the Virginia Tech Massacre (April 16, 2007) Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor and a professor at Virginia Tech, barricaded his Norris Hall classroom door with his own body, an act which enabled most of his students to escape through the windows. Mr. Librescu died after being shot multiple times through the door by Cho Seung-Hui. Mr. Librescu's willingness to give his own life in order to save his students is the epitome of sacrificial love.
4. Sgt. Kimberly Munley and Senior Sgt. Mark Todd who stopped the shooting spree of Major Nidal Malik Hasan in the Fort Hood Shootings (November 5, 2009) - These two civilian police officers confronted and stopped the shooting rampage of the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people and injured 29 at the Fort Hood Military Base in Texas. Through the brave intervention of these two individuals, more lives that could have been taken were saved.
5. U.S. Airways Flight 1549's pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who safely landed the plane in the Hudson River (January 15, 2009) - This veteran pilot safely landed the plane on New York's Hudson River after losing power in both engines after a suspected collision with a flight of birds. Thanks to Mr. Sullenberger's quick thinking and knowledge, all 155 people on board the plane survived.
6. Joel and John Rechiltz and their neighbors who worked together to save a woman and her two children from a burning SUV (July 21, 2009) - These two Milwaukee firefighters (who were off duty at the time of the incident) and several of their neighbors pulled a woman, her four-year-old son, and her two-year-old daughter from the woman's SUV after it burst into flames upon hitting a tree. Because of all of the interventions made by these two men and their neighbors, the woman and both of her children survived. This incident is a wonderful example of how several individuals pulling together to help can make a difference between life and death.
7. Mary Bussey who caught a baby who fell from a third floor balcony in Denver, Colorado (October 1, 2006) - Mary Bussey and her son were walking by a building when they noticed that a baby was dangling from the railing of a third floor balcony. At first, they thought it was a horrible joke when they realized that the baby was hanging by only one hand. Ms. Bussey positioned herself under the baby, and when the baby fell from eighteen and a half feet above, Ms. Bussey was able to catch her without any harm coming to either of them. This act of heroism shows that individuals must always be ready to get involved and help if the situation at hands calls for it.
8. Organ and tissue donors everywhere who are willing to give the gift of life - Providing an organ or bodily tissue to someone is an ultimate gift of life. Many individuals donate their organs and bone marrow while living or upon death in order to give others in need of these precious gifts a chance at life that would not be available otherwise. To read about the stories of some of those people who have been blessed by a transplant, please visit www.organtransplants.org/faces/.
9. Quecreek Miners who survived after being trapped inside of a flooded Pennsylvania coal mine (July 28, 2002) - Mark Popernack, Randy Fogle, Harry "Blaine" Mayhugh, Tom Foy, John Unger, John Phillippi, Ron Hilemand, Dennis J. Hall, and Robert Pugh Jr. were all pulled from a flooded Pennsylvania coal mine after being trapped underground for more than three days. These men tied themselves together to keep them being washed away, and they are an exemplary example of the power of the human spirit to survive. These men are heroes not only because of their care and brotherly love for one another, but also for their willingness even to be coal miners. One would be hard pressed to find a job more challenging and life-threatening.
10. Cameron Aulner who tackled and held down a child molester in a Colorado Walmart until the police arrived (September 19, 2009) - Cameron Aulner, a 22-year-old wheelchair-bound Colorado resident, tackled a child molester who had sexually assaulted a young girl in a Walmart and was fleeing the scene. Mr. Aulner detained the man until the police arrived on the scene. Local police stated, "It is good to know that there are brave citizens like Mr. Aulner who are not afraid to get involved and do what is right."