Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wesley Autrey gets 2007 off to an inspiring start.

Maybe 2007 is going to be a good year after all! That's about the only thing one can say after reading of the superlative exploits of one Wesley Autrey, a construction worker from Harlem, who risked his life to save a stranger. Autrey and two other women had been helping 20 year old man Cameron Hollepter on the platform of the 137th Street 1 line who had lapsed into a seizure. They were attempting to get the station attendant's attention when Hollepter got up and stumbled headlong onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train. Astutely aware that the gutter in the center of the tracks afforded some clearance from the bottom of the train, Autrey leapt onto the tracks and pinned the still seizing, panicked Hollepter in the gutter. Autrey reckoned afterwards that he had about two inches to spare.

But he did it. Both men lived to tell the tale. And Autrey impressively brushed off the notion that he was some sort of hero (although, let's face it, he is) by taking the path of humility: "I think I did the right thing. And it ain't about being a hero, it's just being able to be here and help the next person." Read more about Autrey here. It should come as no surprise that Autrey was a veteran of the United States Navy, by the way.

And you know what? EXACTLY. Autrey has it precisely right. There is such a thing as the common wealth and there does exist a social contract that is supposed to bind each of us together. One thing that I typically keep coming back to, when I enter into debates on society and politics is that these things a) exist, and b) are vitally important.

Yeah, I'm not against making a buck, God knows, but the first wealth any society shares is its greatness, greatness reflected in a sense of purpose, a sense of duty, a sense of understanding and owning up to what is the RIGHT THING TO DO. Sad to say, no one has ever promised that doing the right thing was easy. But then, not all of us find ourselves required to jump in front of a moving train.

I'll resist any further futile attempt to divine deeper meaning and purpose from a single, self-contained deed. I guess to put it in fewer words: "Please, more Wesley Autreys."

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I have epilepsy and I've envisioned myself having a seizure and falling in front of the red line to Shady grove many a time.