On September 11, 2001, our definition of heroism was changed forever. As the world reeled at shocking images of flames, twisted metal and terrified people running through the streets, ordinary men and women stepped forward to perform acts of incredible courage and mercy.
Rescue workers did the unthinkable, entering buildings to attempt rescues while everyone else was flooding out. Businessmen trapped in a hijacked plane called their families to say goodbye, then sacrificed themselves to keep the plane from reaching its ultimate target. People around the world stepped forward to donate blood, send money, do whatever they could to lessen the suffering. Each rose to the challenge.
The entries that poured in for our second "You're My Hero!" contest confirm that heroes can be found anywhere: in front of a classroom, behind the wheel of a police car, and often in our own homes. Read on to meet the heroes portrayed in our 10 winning layouts.
Like many siblings, Christine and her brother Forrest had a rocky relationship as they grew up. She and her twin sister, Cindy, considered Forrest a pesky little brother, and they tormented him. Admits Christine, "Sometimes we were just plain mean."
The night before Christine and Cindy left home for college, 13-year-old Forrest changed their relationship forever. He quietly entered the girls' room, dropped a folded piece of paper on one of their beds, and left without saying a word. As the girls read the note, they began to cry. Forrest had written a poem about the "wall" that had grown between them over the years, dividing them with anger and arguments. He said the time had come to stop the arguing, noting, "And hopefully, now, the wall will crash down. Little, by little, by little."
Since that day 20 years ago, Forrest and Christine have grown to be each other's dearest friends and greatest supporters. Says Christine, "Now that Forrest is pursuing his lifelong goal to become a professional musician, I admire him more than ever for standing by his dreams!"
As Daxton went through his treatments, he decided to create a book, I'm a Super Hero, to help other children with cancer learn what to expect. Starring Daxton as a valiant fighter against "the bad guy Cancer," this book was written and illustrated by Daxton with help from his mom.
Daxton lost his battle with cancer in January 2001. But the book he created and these photographs of his sweet smile remain as legacies of his indomitable spirit.
Shelley downloaded photographs from the Internet, searching for images that represented those affected at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the site of the Pennsylvania crash. She also included pictures of New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and President Bush to commemorate their quick and decisive action.
Says Shelley, "I wanted to represent the everyday men and women who were touched by these events. I truly believe that there were hundreds, even thousands, of heroes on that day, and our country should be very proud. God bless America!"
Says Caroline, "She was always independent, yet she always had time for me. I remember spending Saturdays and Sundays playing Scrabble and card games with her. She loved to share stories about the past with me, too, and showed me the importance of preserving your memories."
Throughout Grace's life, she demonstrated her independent spirit. She raised six children while working on farms and as a nurse; she survived a bout of tuberculosis; and she drove cross-country by herself four times to visit friends and relatives. Her staunch Catholic faith was the core of her life, and the memorial service was the inspiration for Caroline's layout.
Caroline included prayers and readings from Grace's memorial service on her layout, printing them out on cardstock tags and inserting them into vellum envelopes. She chose subdued, elegant papers to flatter the heirloom, black-and-white photos of her grandmother.
"In the 1970s, my mom realized she had a divine potential to do much more with her life," says Dece. When Dece started college in 1992, Linda returned to school as well. She and Dece studied hard together, and Linda went on to earn her bachelor's degree while holding a full-time job. But even a college degree wasn't enough to satisfy Linda's drive and curiosity. Despite health problems and changes in her family life, she earned her master's degree in social work and began a new career.
Says Dece, "Mom has taught me to respect differences of opinion, but also to stand up for my own beliefs. She's shown me that I am in control of my life, and that I have the ability and responsibility to define myself. Mom is my hero, my example, and my friend."
Abe and Judy opened their home and their hearts to Dawn, welcoming her as if she were one of their own. Says Dawn, "Their childrenboth their birth children and Iwere always their first priority. I have wonderful memories of growing up, although my early experiences could have traumatized me forever."
Through adolescence, college and her own experiences as wife and mother, Dawn has always been able to rely on Abe and Judy for support and love. She is quick to note, "They have served as great role models for us all."
Despite the demands of caring for his wife, Cindy's father-in-law still finds time to share with the rest of his family. Says Cindy, "He makes time to visit with his grown children, and he always attends special events for his grandchildren."
Cindy was inspired to create her unique journaling after taking a class by CK founding editor Lisa Bearnson. Cindy edited her text to include phrases from the traditional wedding vows "For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse." Each word is "buried" in the text and highlighted with an increased size and different typeface. Notes Cindy, "Using this technique, I could emphasize the wedding vows my father has honored so graciously."
Says Twyla, "Shelby is eager for her father's helping hand with many of her little projects and calamities. She loves spending time with him because she gets to do such different things—such as setting up tents and making pirate ships—than she does with me."
A greeting card inspired Twyla to create her heart and hand accents. She drew the designs with an embossing marker, then embossed them with white powder to make them stand out. In her layout, Twyla used shades of gray to avoid competing with the subdued, black-and-white tones of her photos.
Ian has accomplished much as a student, athlete and loving family member. "It makes my heart swell every time someone pays me a compliment about him," says Angie. She is also proud that since being diagnosed with diabetes at age four, Ian has learned to manage his disease himself, testing his own blood and giving himself insulin shots.
Notes Angie, "Every step of the way with Ian has been a learning experience. Somehow, our journey together has felt more like one of friends than of parent and child." Through watching Ian grow and shine, Angie has found encouragement for her own struggles. She takes honest pride in raising a heroic young man.
"Because of her extraordinary strength at a very difficult time," says Allison, "that young woman has become my hero. Every single day, I offer a prayer of thanks for the precious gift she has given us."
Allison created this layout to honor the heroism of Ethan's mother and serve as the first page in her son's baby book. "I want him to know his story," says Allison. "I hope he can understand the difficult decision his mother made to give him the life she knew she couldn't offer him on her own."
Allison didn't have a picture of her baby's birth mother, so she asked a pregnant friend, scrapbooker Shannon Watt, if she could use a photo her husband had taken. Allison made sepia and full-color copies of the picture, trimmed the water from the color version, then adhered it over the water in the sepia-toned version. Note: Picture portion lifts up to reveal journaling and a photo beneath.
Next time you create a tribute page to a personal or national hero, consider including one of the following quotes. Gathered by assistant editor Lori Fairbanks, they're a fitting addition to help you capture the essence of heroism.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King Jr.
"Great tragedy has come to us, and we are meeting it with the best that is in our country with courage and concern for others. Because this is America. This is who we are."
President George W. Bush
"You must do the things you think you cannot do."
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."
"It is said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a nation as well. In this trial, we have been reminded, and the world has seen, that our fellow Americans are generous and kind, resourceful and brave. We see our national character in rescuers working past exhaustion; in long lines of blood donors; in thousands of citizens who have asked to work and serve in any way possible."
President George W. Bush
"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it."
"Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened."
"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Robert F. Kennedy
"I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance."
James A. Autry
More Stories about Heroes
Although our contest was limited to just 10 winners, we received so many winning stories that we wanted to share more from the following readers. We hope they help lift your heart and inspire your spirit!
Anne Bauer · Wichita, KS
As a volunteer for the local Humane Society, Anne's husband, Ron, rescues animals of every size, shape and species. He's frequently called in the middle of the night to find an animal that may be lost, frightened and hungry. In these instances, he coaxes it into his car and brings it to a safe place where it can be nursed back to health and united with a loving family.
Anita Bennett · Little Rock, AR
When Anita's father, Bobby, witnessed Anita's graduation from medical school in 1989, he saw his teachings brought to fruition. Says Anita, "Although he had only a sixth-grade education, he always encouraged us to excel in school. He had confidence that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, and he instilled that confidence in me." Bobby passed away in 1993, but he left behind a family made stronger by "his easy laugh, his words of praise and encouragement, and his unconditional love."
"Grandma Bessie was a great inspiration to me," says Anita. "She always encouraged me to accomplish my best. I could talk to her always, about anything. She passed away in 1994, and I miss her dearly."
Carrie Bennett · Smithfield, VA
Most people would prefer not to visit their dentists, but for Carrie it's a chance to visit with her hero. "I've had extensive dental work over the last four years," says Carrie, "and I've endured procedures that would make most people cringe in horror. But Dr. Bowler is so compassionate and supportive that I've conquered my fear and gone ahead with my treatments." He's now straightening her smile with a mouthful of braces.
Mary Beth Bruder · Bound Brook, NJ
On her wedding day, Mary Beth's father told her, "The most important thing in life is love. If you have love, everything else is easy." He exemplified these words throughout his 37-year marriage to Mary Beth's mother. When Mary Beth's father was diagnosed with cancer in October 2000, her parents fought his disease together, thankful for the blessings they'd enjoyed and never losing hope for a cure. As he grew sicker and his family realized he had little time left to live, Mary Beth's mother found the strength to sit by him and tell her father it was all right to go when his suffering grew too great.
Nicole Gartland · Portland, OR
Nicole's brother Wesley is her hero›living proof that people can change and turn their lives around. After spending much of his adult life in jail or addicted to drugs, Wesley made the tough choice to forge a new, clean lifestyle for himself.
Says Nicole, "I can't imagine how difficult it must be for him-trying to rebuild trust, having to make all-new friendships." But with the support of his family, Wesley is working hard as a welder, pursuing new interests in fishing and gardening, and showing how he's grown up and matured.
Debbie Gent · Riverside, CA
"Until I had children of my own," says Debbie, "I couldn't appreciate what a hero my mom really is." As a single mother of two children, Debbie's mom rose above her difficult circumstances. She completed police academy training and served as one of the first female police officers in her area. She always made time to support her children in all their activities. "She has an endless supply of forgiveness and the unique ability to really listen to what people are saying," says Debbie. "Maybe that's why she still has friends she made over 30 years ago!"
Livi Hillyer · Regina, SK, Canada
Although Livi never met her husband's grandfather, Fred, his legendary spontaneity and love of life have survived in stories and fond memories. At age 65, he decided he'd like to learn to tap-dance and promptly joined a dance class full of six-year-olds. He prided himself on learning the name of every flower and bird he saw on his walks with his wife. Says Livi, "My husband talks of his kindness, love and patience, and tries to show our boys the same."
Kimberly Ling · Fresno, CA
Kimberly's work-she's a nurse in a pediatric oncology unit-leads many people to describe her as a hero. But she insists the real heroes are her patients: the children she sees every day.
"Each day I am greeted with smiles and laughter," she says, "even from some of our sickest children." Their optimistic spirits and irrepressible, childish antics bring joy into Kimberly's life every day. Says Kimberly, "We share both happy and sad moments, and each is special in its own way."
Sarah McCoy · Greenville, SC
Bobby McCoy was set fo life. In just five months, he'd finish his grad-school studies, and his wedding to Sarah was only six months away. Then a driver ran a red light and plowed into Bobby's car, paralyzing him from the chest down. Yet Bobby didn't despair. Instead, says Sarah, "he saw it as God's way of equipping him for the ministry."
Sarah and Bobby's wedding went ahead as planned. He finished his degree, and now he uses his story of triumph over tragedy to motivate and inspire his audiences.
Bridget Olt · Wesley Chapel, FL
Heroism must run in Bridget's family! Her father, three uncles and five cousins are all firefighters, risking their own safety to protect other people's lives and property. Even when they're not battling blazes, Bridget's relatives always look for ways to help others. Their annual "Fill the Boot" campaign raises money for children with muscular dystrophy, and they even volunteer to help send children with burn injuries to special summer camps.
Oksana Pope · Los Gatos, CA
In the early twentieth century, the Soviet Union was a grim and dangerous place. Oksana's grandmother, Palahia Reznechenko, endured famine, displacement, and the Great Depression in her struggle to survive.
During World War II, Palahia and her husband fended for themselves. After the war, they lived in a refugee camp for five years until a generous farmer offered to sponsor their emigration to the United States. They were able to work hard and save enough money to buy a dairy farm in Ohio. Says Oksana, "My grandmother's courage allowed me to live in peace and abundance in the land that I now call home."
Jyl Read · American Fork, UT
Any mom with daughters can tell you how attached little girls are to their flowing hairstyles. But when Jyl's daughter Whitney heard about "Locks of Love," a charity that provides custom-fitted wigs to children with medical hair loss, she decided to help. Whitney donated 11½ inches of hair to share with someone less fortunate, and got a darling new hairdo in the bargain!
Kelly Reardon · Baltimre, MD
When Kelly's mom entered medical school, she was raising teenage Kelly all by herself-hardly an ideal situation for study. Still, she excelled in her classes and has gone on to a much-lauded career in medicine.
Says Kelly, "My mother is one of the most respected eye surgeons in her area. She's chief of surgery at her hospital, president of the Eye Surgery Society, and the list just goes on and on. I'm proud to have this wonderful, talented person as my mother!"
Melissa Rezian Frank · Lexington, KY
When Melissa explored her family's history, she discovered "fallen heroes and stoic survivors." Her grandfather had escaped from Turkey at the age of 19 when the army was killing Armenian Christians. Surviving on the run, he arrived in America and managed to earn enough money to bring the rest of his family to this country.
Carolyn Sartori · Coppell, TX
When Carolyn's husband, Pete, got a call asking him to consider donating a kidney to his brother, his family loyalty was put to a test. Pete volunteered immediately, and when doctors said his kidney would be a good match, Pete flew to Baltimore for the surgery. Four days later, he walked out of the hospital, knowing a piece of his own body would help give his brother another chance at a healthy life.
Sharon Stadnyk · Saskatoon, SK, Canada
When Cal's baby daughter was born, his wife died 24 hours later, leaving him to be both father and mother to their newborn child. Grieving but determined, Cal quickly settled into a routine of feeding, diapering, bathing and playing.
A single mom with four children, Sharon took it upon herself to help Cal out. As the two bonded over bottles and walkers, they soon realized that their families blended together beautifully. Says Sharon, "Cal's strength and compassion are amazing. This man is truly the love of my life."
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