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Hero, Defined

Everywhere you look these days there are heroes, as we’re all called upon to do our part.

Masked heroes at a local ShopRite
by Deborah Boerner Ein, Editor
Photography by Marie Gallo

While editing one of this week’s articles, I had reason to use my online dictionary. On that particular day, the Word of the Day was “hero.” Normally, I would have thought that was an odd choice, since the definition of that word is not so obscure that it needs to be introduced into our vocabularies. It was immediately clear, however, why it was there.

Defined as “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character,” the word was used in two examples with timely connotations:

• Amid all the bleak news about the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to remember that there are so many heroes in America right now.

—Lisa Lerer, “The Other Front-Line Workers,” New York Times, April 2, 2020

• Every crisis has its heroes, every disaster its displays of selflessness and sacrifice. … And now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, our health-care workers, doctors, nurses, EMTs and support staff who risk becoming infected themselves—who risk infecting their own families—are making extraordinary sacrifices to care for the rest of us.

—Ruth Marcus, “These Are The Heroes Of The Coronavirus Pandemic,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020

In this week’s cover story, we salute our local frontline heroes, as well as Millville High School engineering teacher Gerald Bruman, who found a way to use his knowledge of 3D printing to produce masks that can be washed, disinfected and reused by our healthcare workers and first responders. Bruman has a whole team of heroes working along with him in helping to make and distribute the masks.

When I think of heroes these days, in addition to healthcare workers and first responders, I think of the many other essential workers who never could have imagined that their jobs would put them in harm’s way. Think of the child care providers who make it possible for the frontline to be where they need to be.

The heroes behind the heroes.

We live in a world where so much for so long has been taken for granted. A few years back, we talked about how our children hardly know where their food comes from. When the store shelves are empty of food and toilet paper, we are forced to trace these items back to their sources and to realize all the people along the way who make our lives and lifestyle possible. The grocery store workers, the truck drivers, the farmers.

Life gets stripped down to the basics in times like this.

We can all be heroes by helping out from the sidelines, donating wherever we can, and just being kind to others. We can be heroes even if we simply abide by the best scientific guidelines of staying home, wearing a mask and social distancing when we have to go out, washing hands and sanitizing, and keeping informed of changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Community Update (pages 4 through 7) has information and links to resources for doing so. (Those pages also describe how you might aid the Salvation Army in feeding residents and how you can show your support for our healthcare heroes simply by placing a blue heart in your window.)

I was thinking about masks and how they hide our smiles. Then I went to the supermarket to get some much-needed items and I exchanged masked smiles with several other shoppers. When we smile, it lights up our whole face, including our eyes. So go ahead and smile through your mask. We will get through these trying times together.

Be well and keep the faith.