Proven Character

In December, 2008, firefighter Brian Kopp was snowmobiling with his friend and his friend’s son. As they were enjoying the great Colorado mountains, and each other’s company, the worst-case scenario began to unfold. They were caught in an avalanche. As the wall of snow raced toward them, Brian actually reached safety but quickly realized the boy with them had not. And so he did what came naturally to him – he turned around and went back.

This epitomizes the character of a firefighter – they turn around, and go back. As a country, we witnessed this very thing during the September 11 attacks, as approximately 250 firefighters laid down their lives helping others. Many of those ran into certain death, hoping they might save someone else with their sacrifice. As we watched it unfold, with shock and horror, we couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride at this tremendous act of bravery.

The bravery of a firefighter is not limited to the job. The story of Brian demonstrates that. In many respects, the story that was written on that day in 2008 is a horrible tragedy. Brian Kopp laid down his life for the son of his friend. The boy he was trying to save died with him; but as Brian’s wife told a local news station, ”I think the end of his story tells who he was. He died doing what he loved, trying to save someone, trying to help someone else.”

I cannot help the thought that flits through my mind as I remember these events. If ever I am faced with a life and death situation, I hope I display this kind of moral courage. I hope that I experience no hesitation. I hope that when tested, my character is of this kind: the character of one who turns around, and goes back.

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