Misinterpreting modesty

          Lightning, as the didactic adage says, doesn't strike twice.

     A friend recently called my attention to a story about an officer from Houston who helped a woman avoid being struck by a subway train during President Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C., in January.

     A 68-year-old woman fell off the platform onto the tracks below, and according to reports, Officer Eliot Swainson enacted the training he had received the day prior, tucking the lady into an alcove just seconds before the train passed the platform, saving her life. News media declared him a hero.

     Less than a day later, Swainson and two others saw smoke coming from a building, called in the fire and rushed to alert residents, saving at least two others. Again, news agents lauded him, this time as a twice-in-a-day hero. If we accept heroism as lightning for this example, Swainson goes against the grain of the proverb.

     Both Swainson and the Washington Metro Transit Police chief were matter-of-fact about the incidents, citing training and civic duty.

     According to reports, when the officers ran to the burning building, Swainson turned to a colleague to say: "It's your turn to be a hero." But the D.C. police, Swainson, and all you readers know that you needn't take turns — those who live up to their law enforcement values in each aspect of the job are doing what they were trained to do.

     It's not that the officer nor the chief were feeling cavalier about the rescues or the victims, but instead understood that an ego check is what keeps a clean slate for any challenges that present.

     My friend had meant to point out the officer's good deed. And I share in giving thanks for these lives saved, sure, but also gratitude for everyday actions by all law enforcement. Instead of highlighting that double incident, I'd rather point out to those outside of the squad room that flashes of heroic lightning exist throughout a cop's everyday thunderstorm.

     It wasn't indifference. Nor solely modesty. It's a succinct understanding of law enforcement that defeats the single-strike concept, reminding that heroism exists big and small for the folks with a badge in every day.