We found a hero in our midst this week in the form of Jonas Harvey.
When there was an explosion and fire in a garage across the street from where he was working on his truck, instead of standing and waiting for fire crews to arrive, he voluntarily jumped into action.
While it turned out no one was in the Rayleigh home, it wasn’t known at the time if the wheelchair-bound resident was inside.
So Harvey squeezed himself through a hole created by the explosion and put his own safety in jeopardy by blasting the flames with a fire extinguisher while inhaling unknown chemicals churning out from the black acrid smoke.
Why did he do it?
Simply put, there are “proactive people that will see a situation and attend to it, and others who will stand by.”
He also says his work as an electrician on big construction sites has mentally trained him to be aware of danger.
So he had no hesitation about whether to take action, felt no panic or fear but also knew the level of danger he faced — the potential of another explosion, being burned and not knowing what he was going to breath in, if unknown chemicals caused the explosion.
In essence, it was a calculated risk furthered by his view that “time was not on my side” if the worst did play out that someone was still trapped in the house.
“I’m not the kind of person to stand by and do nothing.”
Frank Farley, a former president of the American Psychology Association, would suggest Harvey is a situational hero, someone who puts himself in a dangerous spot, acts heroically and “may never be heard from again.”
The professor wrote in Psychology Today that there are three categories of hero — with the other two being life-long heroes and 911 heroes.
He suggests the former applies to people who devote their entire lives to the betterment of the world, like Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa, and the latter refers to those like firefighters and police, who regularly undertake heroic acts in the course of their work.
There is a trend to broaden the definition of heroism beyond those who undertake dramatic feats for the sake of others at their own peril, to drill it down to more average acts.
There is even a non-profit organization — The Heroic Imagination Project, out of San Francisco — that teaches people how to bring such behaviour into their everyday lives; for instance, standing up for others despite opposition, like when bullying occurs.
Striving to be a better person through supporting the underdog seems common sense though; I think it’s important not to dumb down who we define as a hero.
We need our heroes, people we can look up to for the brave acts they undertake and wonder if we ourselves might summon the same courage in similar circumstances.
While I appreciate someone speaking out to support someone else amid tough times, it’s people like Jonas I’ll remember.
He said Thursday that beyond spending the first night trying to vomit everything he inhaled out of his system, he’s feeling “pretty good now.”
By doing what he did, he made the rest of us feel pretty good, too.