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COUNTRYMAN – Stories about life, in and out of Guyana, from a Guyanese perspectiveBy Dennis NicholsThere are a lot of things wrong with the world we live in, like the reality of evil which no one seems to quite understand, since the majority of us, humans, profess to be reasonably good people. There are some among us who take the expression of evil to unbelievable depths of inhumanity. And there are others, whose lives reflect acts of uncommon achievements, selflessness, courage and sacrifice over a lifetime, or in an instant. We call them heroes.Antoinette Tuff and Michael HillOver the centuries, the deeds of larger-than-life men and women have been sung and eulogized. Many of them were world leaders, politicians, philosophers, artists, scientists, inventors and religious figures. Some come readily to mind – Jesus Christ, Plato,Cheap Jerseys 2018, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Martin Luther, Alexander the Great, Einstein, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. (All of whom have however had their detractors) And there are thousands more.There are the homespun heroes who may never make the world news or popular marketplace, although some, like Wesley Autrey, Vicki Soto, and recently Sailor Gutzler, received accolades worldwide for their heroics. But how many of us have heard of John Griffith, Witold Pilecki, Antoinette Tuff, Beatrice Mtetwaand Nick Vujicic?And we only know about people like Hubert N. Critchlow, Cheddi Jagan, Walter Rodney and contemporaries Frederick Kissoon and Simona Broomes because they are Guyanese.This week I will look briefly at two probably not-so-well-known ‘ordinary’ heroes from beyond these shores – John Griffith and Antoinette Tuff, and ask you, reader, how you may have responded to the circumstances/incidents that caused them to react with the kind of courage and selflessness that daunt lesser mortals. And maybe where we can find such persons in Guyana.John Griffith, an American, lived through the Great Depression of the United States. In 1937, he moved from his failed farm in Oklahoma with his wife and young son, and found work as a bridge operator on the Mississippi River. This meant that he controlled the movement of a great drawbridge that allowed boats to pass below when it was raised, and trains to cross the river when it was lowered. (Somewhat like the retractor span on the Demerara Harbour Bridge) His job and his family were his world.Dennis NicholsOne day he took his son, Greg, who was then eight, with him to work. The child was in awe as he watched his dad manipulate the lever that caused giant gear cogs below to turn and engage the cables that swung the bridge. At lunch time, John raised the bridge. Father and son went to eat their sandwiches and chat on an observation deck not far from the control room.Time, unnoticed, flew swiftly by. Suddenly the shriek of a train whistle, that of the Memphis Express with 400 people on board, sounded. With a rush of fear, John realized that he had a very short time to lower the bridge before the train came roaring across it. Telling his son to stay put, he practically ran from the deck to the control room. As he was about to pull the lever to lower the structure, his eyes swept the area below to ensure no boats were there. Then horror was added to fear.Greg, following his father,Cheap Jerseys From China, had slipped from the catwalk and fallen, and was wedged, bleeding, between the huge teeth of the gear cogs. John realized instantly that he had to make the most heart-wrenching decision of his life. He could rush below and save his child, or he could pull the lever to turn the cogs that would crush him, but lower the bridge and save 400 strangers. It was death for either the apple of his eye or the unsuspecting commuters. John covered his eyes with an arm and with the other, pulled the lever.John Griffith operated on this drawbridgeNewspapers reported that as the roar of the train drowned out the agonized cries of his son, John looked down at the carriages as it sped over the bridge. Through the windows he could see people sitting, reading newspapers, and eating, including a boy of about Greg’s age feasting on ice cream. John screamed at them, at their calmness, and their utter ignorance of what had just happened. The reports didn’t say what happened when he went home. Now you are John. What would you have done?Last week I wrote about thinking with your heart. On August 20, 2013,Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale, Antoinette Tuff did just that and much more. She is credited with saving the lives of students and teachers at the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Centre in Georgia, USA, by showing compassion, and empathizing with a deranged man carrying an assault weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition. She also persuaded him to give himself up while reassuring him that he would not be harmed by the police.Antoinette wasn’t even supposed to be at the reception desk at the time of the incident; she was the school’s book-keeper, but was sitting in for the receptionist who was having lunch. The gunman,Cheap Jerseys Wholesale, Michael Hill, who had already shot at the police, told the woman that no one loved him and that he had no reason to live, before pointing the gun and threatening to kill her.A few minutes before the confrontation, Antoinette had been crying her eyes out after receiving a call from her bank telling her she was going to lose her house and car if she didn’t pay them the money she owed it. And a year earlier she had attempted suicide after her husband had left her a younger woman. When Hill told her, “This is for real; we’re all going to die today,” she decided to use her own hardships to empathize and identify with the gunman.On an emergency services recording she was heard saying to Hill, “It’s going to be alright sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you.” Later she added,Wholesale NBA Jerseys China, “I thought the same thing you know. I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now, I’m working and everything’s okay!”Antoinette continued talking to Hill, for an hour, even when he became agitated and fired shots at the school’s cafeteria manager, and although she badly wanted to use the bathroom. He instructed her to call 911 and the news stations and tell them he was going to start shooting soon. As she was communicating with 911, Hill twice went outside and shot at the police. Eventually he surrendered, after which Antoinette gave vent to the pent-up scream she’d been stifling.“I was so terrified, all I could say was ‘Oh Jesus’. I was breaking down on the outside like I already was on the inside. I was screaming,” she confessed. Hailed as a national hero, she said she didn’t see herself as one. However she did say that the only thing she knew was that ‘God prepared me for a purpose that day, and that’s what I’m focusing on.”So now again, you are Antoinette Tuff. What do you think you’d have done?Our country has need of heroes. Judging by some of the comments people make,NFL Jerseys Online, about the docility and cowardice of Guyanese, it may seem that we have none or very few. I don’t agree, so I’ll try to unearth some unsung heroes during the course of the year. Good luck to me.
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