A Different Kind of Hero

Chloé - New Orleans, Louisiana
Entered on November 2, 2007

While I was growing up, my favorite television shows depicted strong and gallant men rescuing people and doing great things to save the day. I would see these characters not only on T.V., but in books and movies as well. I admired them so much because they appeared unbeatable, and no matter what they seemed unruffled. The only heroes I knew of were bulletproof.

Today, I believe I am a hero. I’m not a man and I can’t leap across tall buildings. But I have seen my world washed away and I was a hero. I’m fifteen years old. Two years ago, my villain was hurricane Katrina. In total honesty, I saved no lives. I didn’t perform some courageous act of bravery in the midst of the storm that hit my beautiful city. In fact, by the time Katrina was raging through and breaching levees, I was traveling safe and sound with my parents through Mississippi to make haven at my grandparents’ home in Arkansas. So what have I done that makes me a hero?

I was once told that we are all the heroes in our own stories. In this chapter of my story, I had to watch helplessly as New Orleans sank and communication between friends and family were muted. The only thing I could do was grieve. I cried, asking myself and God, “Why?” without much of an answer. There were many more questions, some of which were being answered by news reporters. No help sent from the President yet. Residents still waiting for food, water, and rescue. Many heading to the Convention Center for aid. There was nothing I could do.

And so I returned with my family and we started to rebuild. It would be a while before I could start back at my regular school and it would be then that I would discover how many of my peers would not be coming back for good. This was extremely saddening and made me feel especially helpless. What could I do? The only thing I could do was to recover and cope with the situation. I think that grief and despair are a few of the most important feelings I have ever felt in my life, but what was most essential was that those were followed by recovery. Having faith that I can get through despite losing certain things, people, places, and parts of my city’s culture. That is what I believe is truly heroic.

I believe that anyone can be a hero. Being a hero for the sake of others is most widely honored, but the first small thing you can conquer is to be a hero to yourself.

I have seen heroes that can save without wearing capes or having boastful abilities. They can come in every size, shape, color and background imaginable. The population in my city today is abundantly comprised of local heroes and heroines. Many have not returned yet, but I am waiting. And I am so proud.