This I Believe

Evan - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 13, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

What is heroism? There isn’t such a thing. That was my belief before last year. But I had overlooked the essential element that bonds everyone and that gives purpose to everything. My former conception couldn’t have been farther off the mark.

Actually, selflessness was already deeply imbued within me. Maybe that’s how I had missed it. I was searching for something on the outside that could only be found by looking on the inside.

Examples were all around me. Clark Kent, who the ordinary knew as Superman; Spiderman, the sole focus of the comics I grew up reading and whom my last name was so ruthlessly compared to; and the real-life firefighters who rescued hundreds on 9-11. None of them changed my view, perhaps because I was already so familiar with selfless heroism that I took them all for granted. Only when I, myself, was tested did my view completely change.

It was in the autumn of ’05 that a seemingly normal dog walk slapped my self-defining belief in my face. I was just about to go back inside when I spotted a black cat thirty feet up in the familiar sweet-gum tree that, until this point, I had all but paid attention to. The cat’s back was arched, and it was obviously overcome with the fear of either falling to its death ten yards below, or, more likely, being annoyed by the fascinated child staring through the leaves.

It was in danger. No hesitation—I had seen this situation before in the eyes of Lois Lane, MJ, and the victims of the tragedy four years before. I immediately threw down the leash and scaled the tree up to the cat’s height. It recoiled; its muscles rippled fiercely under its shiny coat. “Don’t worry; I’m not going to hurt you. All I want to do is help. Just stay there and let me call my–” Luckily my reflexes outweighed my logic. It slipped, I snagged. And at that moment I was Spiderman. I did what fourteen years of unknown practice taught me to do. I discovered my purpose. I became a hero.

After that day, I walked as tall as the sweet-gum, but I cowered like the cat it once retained. What if I hadn’t caught it? What if I had lost concentration for a split second, and it did fall to its death? But that was impossible. Heroes don’t lose concentration in trying times; heroes don’t make mistakes when they’re needed. Heroes are just that: heroes. So what is heroism? I know, so I’ll go ahead and define it. Heroism is exactly what you make it. It can not exist at all, or it can be cherished like an innocent kitten. I’ve made my choice.