Note to a young hero

March 08, 1993

To: John Eric Noah Jr. of Dundalk

From: Anonymous Admirer

That was a remarkable thing you did last month, wading again and again into the icy waters of Bear Creek in eastern Baltimore County in an attempt to save a drowning man.

If an adult had made that sort of effort, people would be saying how incredibly brave he or she was. That you're only 13 makes your attempt all the more worthy of praise.

Yet apparently there's even more to show just how special a young man you are: You feel bad that you couldn't save the man.

According to your mom, the man's death left you thinking of yourself as "a failure." She also was quoted as saying she told you, "John, most people wouldn't have done anything."

Sorry to say, she's probably right about that. But you did do something. That's one of the ways we recognize the real heroes among us. They're the people who take the necessary action at the necessary time.

They include parents who aren't crazy about their jobs but keep plodding along because they have kids or ailing parents to support.

And they certainly include the people who do the sort of courageous and risky thing you did at Bear Creek.

Heroes tend not to need commendations. Still, it was good to see the superintendent of the state's Natural Resources Police get together with the administrators and your classmates at General John Stricker Middle School for a surprise award PTC presentation to you last week.

It was also good to hear your mother say of you after the presentation, "He's having a good day. It's good therapy for him."

Because you're such a conscientious and spiritual person, the drowning death of Douglas Wienecke might stay with you for a long while. That won't be a bad thing so long as you carry what, for you, is the most important piece of that sad event -- you did something.

Remember that.

You tried your best.

You heard the cries of help and ran toward them, not away from them. You didn't hesitate. You acted immediately to try to save a drowning man.

To repeat, that was a remarkable thing you did. You're a remarkable person, John Eric Noah Jr. A hero.

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