Andy On Heroism

Andy Rooney Explains Why Most Heroes Are Unlikely

My mind wanders and it's a good thing it does because if my mind didn't wander, it wouldn't go anywhere at all.

When Captain Chesley Sullenberger - called just "Sully" - rescued those people on board his plane, landing it safely in the Hudson River recently, everyone agreed Sully was a hero.

We don't have many heroes these days because there isn't much opportunity to be a hero and most people aren't usually heroic anyway. Being heroic means doing something that risks your own life while you're saving someone else's. That's why Sully is a hero.

In World War II we had a lot of heroes because there were a lot of opportunities to be heroic. I was a reporter for The Stars and Stripes and I saw a lot of heroes.

One of the best stories I ever had to write was about a hero named Maynard Smith. He was called "Snuffy" Smith because he had an undistinguished personality and no one thought there was anything at all heroic about Snuffy until the day he saved the lives of six of the men on board his B17 after it was hit by German fighter planes.

Like "Snuffy" Smith, most heroes are unlikely. They aren't heroic on purpose.

As a reporter I was at the base when Snuffy's B17 came in and I wrote Snuffy's story. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and I was proud of my part in that. Just being there when he got back made me the hero at my newspaper.

War is civilization at its worst and it's a strange twist that there's more heroism at war than at any other time. Men do things for each other at war that they'd never think of doing for each other in peace. Why is that?

We all must have the same attributes we've always had but I guess people don't have the opportunity to be heroic in peace as they do in war. It's an awful thought that there's anything at all good about war.

Written by Andy Rooney