It was Dean Wells, a husband and father who loved to sing and whistle in his church choir. Dean was working a shift at the Home Depot, managing the electrical department, when the siren rang out. He sprang into action, moving people to safety. Over and over again, he went back for others, until a wall came down on top of him. In the end, most of the building was destroyed, but not where Dean had directed his coworkers and his customers.
There was a young man named Christopher Lucas who was 26 years old. Father of two daughters; third daughter on the way. Just like any other night, Christopher was doing his job as manager on duty at Pizza Hut. And then he heard the storm coming.
It was then when this former sailor quickly ushered everybody into the walk-in freezer. The only problem was, the freezer door wouldn’t stay closed from the inside. So as the tornado bore down on this small storefront on Range Line Road, Christopher left the freezer to find a rope or a cord or anything to hold the door shut. He made it back just in time, tying a piece of bungee cord to the handle outside, wrapping the other end around his arm, holding the door closed with all his might.
And Christopher held it as long as he could, until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer.
You see, there are heroes all around us, all the time. They walk by us on the sidewalk, and they sit next to us in class. They pass us in the aisle wearing an orange apron. They come to our table at a restaurant and ask us what we’d like to order.
Just as we can’t know why tragedy strikes in the first place, we may never fully understand where these men and women find the courage and strength to do what they did. What we do know is that in a split-second moment where there’s little time for internal reflection or debate, the actions of these individuals were driven by love -- love for a family member, love for a friend, or just love for a fellow human being.
That’s good to know. In a world that can be cruel and selfish, it’s this knowledge -- the knowledge that we are inclined to love one another, that we’re inclined to do good, to be good -- that causes us to take heart. We see with fresh eyes what’s precious and so fragile and so important to us. We put aside our petty grievances and our minor disagreements. We see ourselves in the hopes and hardships of others. And in the stories of people like Dean and people like Christopher, we remember that each us contains reserves of resolve and compassion. There are heroes all around us, all the time.
And so, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example -- to make each day count -- to live with the sense of mutual regard -- to live with that same compassion that they demonstrated in their final hours. We are called by them to do everything we can to be worthy of the chance that we’ve been given to carry on.
- President Barack Obama, Joplin, Missouri, May 29, 2011