Everyday Heroism

On Tuesday, February 23rd, gunman Bruco Eastwood shot and wounded two students at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colorado. Math teacher Dr. David Benke was outside patrolling the parking lot after school at the time. When he heard the first shot, he charged at the gunman and wrestled him to the ground.  Teachers Norm Hanne and Becky Brown were close behind.  Bus driver Jim O’Brien shouted at the students already on his bus to get down and make the bus look empty before he rushed out to help hold down the attacker.  Nobody was killed in the attack.

On Christmas Day last year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab brought explosives onto Northwest Airlines flight 253 in his underwear.  Passenger Jasper Schuringa put out the fire, burning his hands in the process, and then dragged the would-be bomber to the front of the plane to be restrained.  Nobody was killed.

Back in December of 2001, Richard Ried tried to light a fuse leading into the explosives his shoe on American Airlines 63.  Flight attendant Hermis Moutardier caught him in the act, and with the help of flight attendant Cristina Jones and other passengers subdued the 6’4″, 200 pound man, and restrained him with a seat-belt extension, belts, and headphone cords.  Jones remarked to Time magazine afterward:

Most of it was instinct, and the knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks. I don’t believe I would have grabbed [Reid] the way I did had I not known about Sept. 11. I don’t know that the passengers would have come to my aid so quickly had they not known about Sept. 11.

Nobody was killed.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001, at the cost of of 2,976 lives, may have taught us the most valuable lesson we’ve ever learned: that apathy, complacency, and (above all) inaction can have greater costs than we might ever imagined.  We began that day with fantasies of terrorism where John McClane can rush to the rescue of anyone who sits quietly and stays out of the way.  We ended it understanding that even when resistance is as deadly as it was for the passengers of United flight 93, the consequences of inaction — of not being John McClane, if only for a moment — can be even greater.

While the Transportation Security Administration learned from Richard Ried that travelers need to remove their shoes before boarding an airplane, the public already knew not to tolerate lit matches on board a flight.  Even while we depend on police protection for our everyday safety, the police cannot be everywhere at every moment.  But Dr. David Benke and his peers can be — collectively — and can be able to act immediately in society’s defense.

One of the most moving and memorable speeches in Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing (from 20 Hours in America) comes after a bombing at the fictional Kennison State University.  President Bartlett gives this address:

Forty-four people were killed a couple hours ago at Kennison State University.  Three swimmers from the men’s team were killed and two others are in critical condition when after having heard the explosion from their practice facility they ran into the fire to help get people out.

Ran into the fire.

The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight.  They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends.  The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels.

But every time we think we’ve measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes.  We will do what is hard.  We will achieve what is great.  This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.

This is a time for American heroes, and we have them in abundance.

Making Lemonade, Shoe Style

When a shoe store in Longmont, Colorado closed, another neighborhood business took advantage of the opportunity with some hastily written signs taped to the door of the empty storefront:

Phelps Shoe Repair

Phelps Shoe Repair

“Well, I did want new shoes, but I guess I can settle for a repair.  Ring it up!”

Incentives Available!

At the corner of Highway 119 and Main Street in Longmont, Colorado is this storefront, enticing passersby with some large signs (which appear here unedited).  One problem: I have absolutely no idea what they’re selling.

Incentives Available!  Will Subdivide!

Incentives Available! Will Subdivide!

Fear of Ice

The JetBlue blog is a mixture of press releases, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, corporate culture, and occasional bragging. It won some major points on February 11th, when JetBlue canceled its flights in the Northeast in advance of the latest big storm to hit the region.

With the forecast calling for icy conditions throughout the day, we decided to cancel flights rather than wait-and-see with our customers in the airports.  Why?  Because on the suckiness scale, getting a call that your flight is canceled while you’re still at home, at a hotel, or at your family or friend’s house is a lot better than getting up early, going to the airport and waiting for hours with the possibility of flight cancellation to come. Still sucks. Just a little less.

I liked in particular this explanation for why aircraft are out of position at the beginning of the day:

That would work if we could park aircraft overnight in the cities affected by weather, but we try to avoid that.  Ice would build up on the wings overnight and it would take hours to deice all of the aircraft we normally start the day with at New York’s JFK, let alone Boston, Washington’s Dulles and the Mid-Atlantic cities.  So we put those planes in warmer weather ports for the night to get them to the frozen North first thing in the morning the day after the storm, then start the operation from that point.

I love logistical challenges like this, and I’d probably enjoy figuring out how to reposition aircraft in this manner to have the least impact on operations.  I don’t envy the planners who have to endure (albeit indirectly) the ire of stranded travelers who are entirely too willing to blame their airline for the weather, though.

Ethnic Hair Care

This is my all-time favorite grocery store aisle identification sign:

Ethnic Hair Care

Ethnic Hair Care

I was reluctant to find out what products, specifically, one might find in this aisle, but its mere existence is awesome.

Four-Year-Old Humor

And now, a moment of terror brought to you by Sophie:

Sophie: There’s a butt on Mommy’s head and Daddy’s head!  Run for your lives!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(30 seconds of complete silence)

Sophie: (deadpan) That was a close one.

It was like War of the Worlds for the modern era.

Obscure Uses For Brakes

An advertisement in our local brake repair center offered this helpful bit of car repair wisdom today:

The Purpose of Brakes

The Purpose of Brakes

Other facts they might feature on future posters: “Engines help you go!” and “Steering wheels help you turn.”

Valentine’s Day Warning

Sophie got a box of valentine cards to hand out to her friends — princess themed, of course.

Princess Valentines

Princess Valentines

The cards came in a box with two curious warning messages inside. First:

Caution: changes or modifications not expressly approved by the party responsible for compliance could void the user’s authority to operate the equipment.

And second:

NOTE: This equipment has been tested and found to comply with the limits for a Class B digital device, pursuant to Part 15 of the FCC Rules. These limits are designed to provide reasonable protection against harmful interference in a residential installation.

Are paper Valentine’s Day cards for children now more sophisticated than they were when I was a kid? They look exactly the same to me.


When we warned Sophie of her impending bath yesterday, she naturally protested.  Hoping to remind her that clean and conditioned hair is less tangled than dirty hair, this is the debate that ensued:

Sophie: (adamantly) I don’t want to take a bath!

Mommy: Do you want it to owie when I brush your hair tomorrow?

Sophie: (perfect deadpan) Yes.  I love owies.

(long pause while Mommy and I laugh uproariously)

Sophie: Well… maybe not…

It’s really difficult to compete logically with a four-year-old child who understands the power of sarcasm.