Saturday, August 4, 2007

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

That familiar verse from Luke 14:11 seems particularly appropriate when you think of the many heroes -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things -- following the collapse of the I35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis Wednesday night.

Two people who particularly come to mind are Shanna Hanson and Jeremy Hernandez.

Shanna Hanson is the Minneapolis firefighter the world saw risking her own safety to dip in the dangerous Mississippi River and then forage submerged cars for signs of life, tethered precariously by a length of yellow rope. Unfortunately, she didn't find any survivors.

Ms. Hanson was just coming home when she heard sirens and got the news of the bridge collapse. She ran to the scene and then traversed a roof and several railroad cars to reach the river where she had to risk the dangers of swift current, electrical wires and fallen debris.

On Wednesday night the world didn't know her name but we all knew what she did. I felt that, if she was my daughter, I would have been both scared for and extremely proud of her.

Later Ms. Hanson appeared ill at ease before the television cameras and microphones, downplaying her heroism as "just part of the job."

Turns out that the publicity shy firefighter has been on the department since 1991, promoted to captain in 2001 and appointed to the Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Board in 2005.
She is also a member of the fire department's honor guard, an assistant EMS instructor at the Hennepin County Medical Center and a rope rescue trainer with the Minnesota Technical Rescue School.

In a few days humble Shanna Hanson will slip back into relative obscurity. She'll continue to do the job she's done for the last 16 years. The popular media, however, will continue to talk about the antics of such irrelevant people as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Nicole Richey. The world, however, will remember Shanna Hanson as the unidentified female firefighter searching submerged cars in the river, her only lifeline being a simple length of yellow rope.


Jeremy Hernandez was tired after accompanying a busload of kids on a field trip, so he was trying to catch a quick nap as the bus crossed the Mississippi River bridge Wednesday about 6 p.m.

The bridge collapsed, the bus fell 30 feet and landed at an awkward and dangerous angle and
many of the 61 students and staff onboard were injured. As some kids screamed in terror for their moms, Hernandez bolted from his back-of-the-bus seat, kicked the emergency door open and cleared debris away from the exit. He then began plucking children off the back of the bus and handing them up to other Good Samaritans gathered on the fractured concrete above.

"They are like my brothers and little sisters. They are part of me," the 20-year-old Hernandez said of the children he has come to know while working as the gym coordinator at Waite House, one of six neighborhood centers operated by Pillsbury United Communities.

Hernandez was an automotive student at Dunwoody College in Minneapolis until recently, when he had to drop out because he didn't have tuition money. The only set of keys to his 1993 Jeep, which he wore on a lanyard around his neck, fell into the swirling river after they were ripped away by a frightened child.

We don't know how Mr. Hernandez resolved the problem of his missing keys. We do know that Dunwoody's president said the school wants him back -- and he doesn't have to worry about the tuition.

1 comment:

Glenn D. Frankovis said...

Outstanding profile of these two heroes! As someone once said, "Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things." These two people definitely qualify.