Original Photo by F LoBuono

While watching the local TV news, I was amazed by the vast range of human behavior exhibited in 2 stories, broadcast back to back, and that lasted for a total of about 3 1/2 minutes.

But, in that short period of time, I was moved to tears by the compassion shown in one story and horrified by the lack of any decency in the other.

Stephen Siller

The first feature was a LIVE update on the Tunnel To Towers event that raises money for various 911 and military families with runners from all over the world by recreating the steps of NYFD firefighter Stephen Siller who, despite being off duty, ran — literally — in full pack — back through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and into the dying towers on 911. His body was never recovered.

The event honors ALL of the First Responders who gave their lives on that faithful day.

William Burke

One of the them was William Francis Burke, a.k.a. Captain Billy Burke of the NYFD, Engine 21. After ordering his men to evacuate the mortally wounded North Tower of the Trade Center, he went back to the 27 Floor where he refused to leave a man in a wheelchair and his friend who could not be moved any further. Despite knowing his fate was sealed, he would not leave a defenseless man, an act not only of incredible courage but of immense compassion, as well.

The three perished together. Their bodies were also never recovered.

The second story was about a robbery/shooting in a bodega in Brooklyn. In the video shown, a tall young man wearing a dark hoody and mask enters the store. Within seconds, he produces a handgun and starts shooting INSIDE the store, possibly targeting an employee by still indiscriminately blasting away! Who, despite his intended target, might have been also injured or killed was obviously of no concern to this man.

It’s easy to call him a coward and monster. He certainly exhibited the behavior of a person bereft of any moral compass, especially when seen in contrast to the 1st story.

However, in addition to the disgust that I felt for this misanthrope, I could not help but acknowledge that, despite the extreme range in behavior, BOTH of these men are just that, MEN, i.e., HUMAN BEINGS. We can label both, hailing one as a hero and the other as a creep.

But, by doing so, are we really coming to an understand of what it truly means to BE human? How is that one gives to humanity in the ultimate way and another takes from it without regard to moral judgement?

I suppose that this is a rhetorical question. Well, at least I don’t have the answers.

What I DO know is that the only way to combat the evil that lurks in the hearts of men is to counter it with the type of courage and compassion exhibited by so many on the fateful day.

BOTH lie within. The choice is ours.

Frank LoBuono