(as painted by Michael Israel)
HERO explores commitment to an ideal. It asks the question: What endeavor would you
undertake knowing full well that the odds are you will fail? What would you give your
all to knowing it’s likely you will be severely injured or even die trying? What is the
greatest possible reward and in that thought, what is the most valuable and priceless
thing on earth?
Story as told by Chrissie
Paul and Chrissie are a young couple, in their twenties, and have started a new family.
I’ll never forget that day. My husband Paul didn’t even eat breakfast, he was excited
and wanted to get to the fire station early. It was his first week on the job. And there
at the door, he stood he stood waiting for a hug from Jessie our adorable 3 year old. When
Paul told that her he loved her, Jessie’s face lit up with a big smile and in her tiny
voice she said “Daddy, will you play with me when you get home?”
Paul smiled and said “Of course.”
I hated that we both had to work, but I was glad that Jessie could go to Gail’s apartment
to play her daughter Jen. When we got there Jessie and Jen started playing with dolls
right away. And then on my way out the door I heard Jessie tell Jen that her daddy is a
fireman. She sounded so proud. I left feeling happy and proud of both Jessie and Paul.
I didn’t know that that day would change my life forever.
They tell me that Jessie got up to go to the bathroom. Right after she closed the door
there was huge explosion, the entire building shook. Gail said the apartment filled with
smoke. Without even thinking Gail grabbed Jen and ran out.
Frantically she found the fire chief and told him that there was another little girl
trapped in her apartment. But, the chief told her there was no way he could send anyone
into that collapsing old building.
The Gail heard Paul’s voice on the radio saying he was on the second floor.
The chief told Paul to get out… that he had a family to think about, but Paul’s voice
came back on the radio and said that he wouldn’t leave until he knew everyone was safe.
He said he heard there was a little girl trapped in one of the apartments. Little did
The chief was yelling at him: “Are you insane, GET OUT OF THERE before the building
collapses”, but Paul refused.
When I got there I didn’t see Jessie and just went crazy. I was going to go in there
and get her myself. The chief had to grab me to stop me.
When he realized who I was he told me Paul was already in there. But when I asked him
if they were OK, he just looked at me.
Then I heard Paul’s voice on the radio. It was broken up, but I heard him say he it was
really bad. He said he was going to try to get the child and make it to a window. He
told the chief “You’d better call my wife. Tell Chrissie I love her and tell her to
take good care of Jessie, and…” The radio went dead.
I screamed! All I could do was scream. “Paul, its Jessie! IT’S JESSIE! God, he doesn’t
In my heart, I imagined he found her… That he hugged her and at least for a moment
everything was OK.
There was another huge explosion, the ground shook more violently than ever and fire
blew out the windows. I just fell to my knees. “Noooooo!”
The chief tied to tell me what a hero Paul was and that he went in there with good
reason that day. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I was shaking,
delirious about what had just happened. I started thinking “Oh my God, my life is over.
Did I say the right things, did I do the right things? Did I tell them I love them?”
And then all of a sudden there they were jumping out of the fourth floor window. It
was like a dream. There was Paul hanging on to Jessie with her arms wrapped around
Paul stood still holding Jessie, his head bowed in a silent pray of thanks. Jessie was
hugging him, her head turned back with tear filled eyes watching as the rest of the
building collapsed. She said “Mommy, I wasn’t scared. I knew Daddy would come. He’s
my hero, isn’t he?”