by Beatriz Lovo Reichmann
It has always been astonishing to me how, throughout history, human beings find and seek creative and brutal ways of destroying, punishing, torturing each other. So many wars, which, in the name of God, for the sake of pride, in the search for national security, border protection or the need for power have covered our lands with blood, pain and disgrace.
However, it is even more impressive how, in every war, during any fight, there have always been individuals willing to risk their lives for the sake of others, many times, complete strangers, in the search for justice, for the belief of that which is right.
From slavery in the U.S., to civil wars and turmoil all over the world ; from two World Wars to the Civil Rights Movement; from the fight against tyrannical governments in Latin America, to genocide in Rwanda, Croatia...its endless.
I have had a closer look of these special individuals and moments in history. During my stay in the U.S. I visited a cemetery of freed people who escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. A movement that put the "free" in harms way, but who still refused to be bystanders in the face of inhumanity and injustice.
It made me think about people like Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan hotel manager who, during the genocide in the 1990s, hid and protected 1268 people when he could have chosen to protect only his own family. Or Irena Sendler, a polish woman who risked her life to save more than 2,500 children from occupied Warsaw during WWII. I think of Henry Dunant, who, concerned with the inhumanities of war after the Battle of Solferino, in Italy, began efforts that culminated in the creation of the Red Cross, now an international organization that aids those in need, during peace or war, without distinctions of ideology, race, language, religion or citizenship. I think about Angel, a police officer from Madrid who, only a few days ago, was unwilling to observe how a 41 year old man be run- over by the subway, risked his life, threw himself to the tracks and rescued a complete stranger.
We all carry with us our own wars and our own turmoil. But we must not forget that there is always someone in greater need, in greater pain. And we can choose to look the other way, because we all have lives to live, families to care for, problems to solve...or we can choose to be the heroes in someone else's story, just once, even for a moment.