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Beth Cook: During corona-infested world, hard to pick just one hero

By Beth Cook

Sept. 17 was the day the Salisbury Civitan Club normally recognizes a Rowan County citizen with the annual Hero Award, established by longtime member Ernest Curtis. He was inspired by the many heroic acts of ordinary people immediately after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. As the chairperson of the Hero Award committee, I sent out requests for nominations so we could honor a deserving recipient today.

I received no nominations.

At first I thought, “This can’t be right! Maybe my contact information was wrong.” But no, everything was in order. There were no responses.

I thought some more, and it began to make sense. How can anyone in this corona-infested global pandemic that we find ourselves in choose one person and say, “Here is the hero!” Apparently no one could. So I thought some more. And I asked myself a question, “Who are the heroes?”

Here are some of my answers.

We see signs in many places proclaiming “heroes work here,” referring to people who take care of those who can no longer take care of themselves. The first major outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred in places like these, yet the workers kept on working. I know some of them.

Police officers, firefighters and first responders have been called heroes. I know some of them, too. 

And there are those who do their best to keep us healthy: physicians; nurses; PAs; therapists; drivers of ambulances, helicopters and wheelchairs; food service folks; and custodians working in hospitals and clinics all over the county. I know some of them. My older son is one.

I thought of small business owners who unlock the doors to their store, shop, restaurant, café, dry cleaners, bakery, salon or business every morning, hoping to have what they need at the end of the month to pay rent, bills, employees and have some left for their own families. I know some of them.

Then there are those close to my heart: school employees. There’s a huge cadre of teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, bus drivers, cafeteria ladies (and men), office staff, custodians and those often-ignored but terribly important teacher assistants. Making learning relevant to half your students in person and the other half virtually while managing the hundreds of other tasks education requires today is a monumental task. I know many, many of these people. Some are my close friends. My younger son is one, and both of my sons married teachers.

And what about those we don’t see? People caring for elderly parents, or maybe elderly grandparents caring for their grandchildren so the parents can work. I know some of them.

So my question: Who are the heroes?

Just open your eyes and look. Can we honor each one in Zoom? No.

But I challenge you: step outside of your comfort zone (if you need to) and say to someone who falls into one of these categories, “I see you. I see what you are doing. And I think you are a hero.”

Maybe next year we can return to our traditional plaque and round of applause. But for now, look for the heroes.

Beth Cook lives in Salisbury and is a member of the Salisbury Civitan Club.

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