The Liberty Gazette
April 23, 2019Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
What’s a hero? One we wrote about the last two weeks is Captain Curtis Laird of Dayton, who risked his life for others every day as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Another is a twenty-something young man from Germany whose anonymously donated bone marrow saved our grandson’s life.
And this discussion can’t go on without the mention of Captain Ken DeFoor of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, who will never retire from helping others. The man has a heart of gold.
There’s also Captain Tammy Jo Shults, the Southwest Airlines captain who safely landed a crippled and severely damaged airplane last year.
Three things Captain Shults emphasizes when she shares her story of flight 1380 are habits, hope, and heroes. First, if we practice good habits then in an emergency, those habits will be automatic at the time most needed. Second, hope doesn’t change our circumstances, but it does change us. Third, there’s no need for titles or props for one to be a hero.
She recounted opening the cockpit door after landing the plane, expecting to see frightened passengers and chaos in the cabin. To her surprise, everyone was calm, and people were helping each other. The flight attendants were heroes that day, helping and reassuring everyone, and creating a safe atmosphere so emergency responders could do their jobs. One passenger bent down to tie the shoes of another who was unable to do it themselves. We know about this because that person is one who Captain Shults calls a hero.
While the captain indeed saved many lives that day, she is quick to say that there were many heroes that day. Her definition of a hero is someone who takes time to be selfless and help others.
And that is exactly what we witnessed last week when Liberty Police Department Officer J. Rodriguez was driving through our neighborhood and stopped his car, got out, and walked up the driveway to help our neighbor who is mobility-challenged get into her vehicle.
Officer Rodriguez didn’t have to do that. This wasn’t a life-or-death situation. It was one most people would have ignored—and do every day. And it’s probably not in his job description. But people like him don’t live by job descriptions. They live by their convictions. They aren’t looking for recognition, and attention is not what motivates them. In fact, these are the kind of people who don’t even want the spotlight. They just want to do what’s right.
Although our column is mostly about aviation, this week’s piece for Ely Air Lines was prompted by the actions of Officer J. Rodriguez.
Heroes can be found in the sky, at sea, and on the ground. And there are opportunities to be a hero every day. So, let’s take our cue from their examples.
Here’s to the Curtis Lairds of the world, the Ken Defoors of every community, the Tammy Jo Shultses across the jet stream, and the J. Rodriguezes of every small town. We need more like you.