Special Report: What makes a Hero?

Published: Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:59 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2011 at 10:55 PM EST
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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -   When you hear the word hero, do you think of someone with super human strength or someone you know?

A good hero can be hard to find. A hero is selfless, a genuinely good person, and someone gets the undivided attention of all of us and causes change. Someone willing to risk their own life to save another.

What is a hero? Is it what we see in the movies, a man in a cape? "When I think of a hero, I think of somebody like Batman," said Tyshon Murray.

"The people that we set up as heroes are people that generally go above and beyond in terms of the call of duty, they do things that are extraordinary,"  said Dr. Nick Carden of the Renaissance Center.

We all remember the images of those who rushed into the burning World Trade Center September 11th. And now those who defend our nation. Webster's defines a hero as a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent, endowed with great strength or ability. That's what kids tend to think.

"Superman, Spiderman, and Batman," said Haley Suggs.

Sarah Perry says, "A hero is a person who saves the day. He's the one who has all the courage and he has responsibility."

It turns out a hero doesn't have to fly. They're often grounded.

"I'd say my mom because my daddy wasn't really around and my mom always made sure I had what I needed," said Jonathan Newberry.

"A hero is somebody that you look up to, you know that you try to be like," Robert Sanders said.

Someone like Cory Jarvis who never thought twice about running up to this semi that was about to explode. He then helped Cody Murphy free his father Ralph. "I've always been raised to help people and when you see somebody that needs help like that you just can't turn away from it."

Would you have done the same thing? What makes someone rush up to this burning wreckage to help someone they don't even know?

"They probably are people that have been influenced by and have been helped by or have been modeled or raised to have those as values," Dr. Carden said.

It's true of Jarvis who received second degree burns for his heroic actions. "My dad's he's always, you know helped others when they need it, you know, and he's a good man himself and if it would have been him there he would have done the same thing," Cory said.

Not everyone would do the same. Some simply stand by and watch while others rush in. Psychologists call it the bystander affect. "I don't know if I could have, maybe other people, but not me," said Cory.

"Heroes basically give us our models of things that we aspire to do, whether those are our values that's issues related to courage, integrity, honesty," said Dr. Carden.

Some say it's Jarvis' actions that are heroic, but Cory didn't have to do it, or maybe he did. "It's just something you know that, that my mind told me to do, to help them and if I'm a hero, I'm a hero but I just felt like it was something I had to do, I couldn't let nobody get hurt."

We all have the ability to be heroic. Psychologists say it can be taught, it's starts with helping out your fellow man. Just like Cory Jarvis did on this Camilla Highway.

"It's the best feeling in the world there's nothing better than helping somebody," said Cory.

For any hero, it's enough just knowing they helped someone else. That's what makes them a true hero.

Heroic actions don't go unnoticed. In 1904, Andrew Carnegie, set up the Carnegie Hero Fund. In the last 107 years, 9,300 medals have been awarded along with $32 million in accompanying grants.

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