Today begins the sad journey of Lt. Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy to their final resting place. These two dedicated public servants who lost their lives in that horrific fire on Beacon Street work out of Engine 33, Ladder 15 on Boylston Street, just a few blocks from the Marathon bombing are indeed heroes.
But this is also the beginning of baseball season and the Red Sox and all the other teams in the American and National Leagues will be competing for the World Series ring. Thousands will cheer them on and mothers and fathers will join their sons and daughters in placing these athletes on a pedestal as they seek their autograph and cellphone pictures that they can keep forever.
Amidst all the community grief on the day Lt. Walsh and Firefighter Kennedy perished Bob Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, and John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, visited the firefighting brothers of Walsh and Kennedy at Engine 33 on Boylston Street. Upon leaving the station, Mr. Kraft, with tears in his eyes, said that ” firemen, policemen and nurses are the most under-appreciated professionals in our society.” Under-appreciated indeed.
We too often look at athletes as having some heroic and extraordinary quality that merits our constant adulation. They have become the role models of our age. It is only when tragedy strikes do we recognize the heroic and extraordinary quality of those who serve the public.
Few of us would have the bravery to enter a burning building to save lives or walk the means streets of Boston looking for bad guys or help a dying patient deal with pain and sorrow. These men and women are the real role models – the firemen, the policemen, the nurses who serve us everyday.
These real role models don’t get paid gobs of money, get huge endorsement contracts, have their faces on chewing gum cards or have their every word analyzed as if it was a presidential address. They just do their job quietly, efficiently and with little interest in the limelight.
We must never mix the skill and talent of athletes like those on our beloved Red Sox with the bravery, the dedication, the compassion of those who fight fires, keep our streets safe or help those who are suffering.
The term role model is used much too broadly in our society and is given to people who play a game and entertain the fans. Sure these athletes are special and deserve our cheers. But they are not role models; that title belongs to those who serve the public and keep them secure.