True heroes set the example

The word “hero” has a few connotations.

Before Sept. 11, 2001, sports figures often were lauded as heroes for what they did on the field. As such, when someone from your hometown earns a World Series ring after decades in Major League Baseball, he could qualify as a hero to many. Steubenville’s Rich Donnelly certainly easily fit that bill, winning a ring as a coach with the Florida Marlins in 1997. The city and his friends were understandably proud of the coach.

The true heroism of the story comes when one hears Donnelly’s story of the loss of his daughter to brain cancer and how he relates that to the moment of victory, of triumph and tears and wins and losses at life and how they fit together. When one considers the positive attitude Donnelly exudes despite life’s struggles, the lessons of faith he teaches without preaching, the word “hero” is easy to apply.

But it’s not just the father of the Donnellys who qualifies. Certainly, daughter Amy qualifies for exuding that positive attitude while facing the disease that claimed her life. Stories about her say classmates were inspired by her in her Texas high school.

Two other Donnelly daughters were credited with shielding people from bullets as the Las Vegas massacre took place in October, willingly putting themselves in harm’s way to aid others.

Heroes? No doubt.

And, last Sunday night, another member of Donnelly’s family qualified, but lost his life, mixing the triumph of the good of the human spirit with the ultimate sacrifice.

Michael Donnelly had stopped to help a woman who was helping a motorist push a car off a busy Dallas highway. Another vehicle swerved and struck Donnelly and the woman, who survived the crash because, she says, Michael Donnelly pulled her at the last moment, saving her from bearing the brunt of the impact. He was pronounced dead at a Dallas hospital.

According to news reports from a Dallas TV station, the woman hails Michael Donnelly as her hero, and a humbled Rich Donnelly in Steubenville told her she was doing a heroic act in helping the other motorist, and that he is at peace with the loss of his son. The loss of a son doing something good to help other people.

There are heroes in our midst to be sure. It’s something beyond the field of athletic endeavor that shapes them and sets the example for us all.