Friday, June 3, 2011

A story I have never told

One of the security questions being used these days is "Who was your childhood hero?".  I'm sure that to most people Superman, Batman, Spiderman or Wonder Woman come to mind.  For others, it may be John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or even Jesus Christ.  Still yet, others may say Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson or Michael J. Fox.  I guess the word "hero" really has a wide definition that can be interpreted in many different ways.  In my opinion, my childhood hero is a true "hero" as he is "one who performed a heroic act."(

It's January 13, 1982, I am a few days shy of 8 1/2 years old.  One act on this day will forever change my idea of what a hero is.  It's hard for me to recall the exact details.  Mainly, did watch this live or did I watch the replay.

My childhood hero's name is Lenny Skutnik.  And, no he did not play for the Raiders, Cowboys, or Cardinals.  Lenny was just an ordinary guy with an ordinary job. So, you're probably asking "who the hell is Lenny Skutnik?" He, in a moment's decision, became hero that everyone would know.  If I said " he's the guy that jumped into the Potomac River."  You would probably respond "Ohhhh, that guy."   Yes, that guy.  For those of you who are either too old or too young to remember, here is recap of the events that lead to Lenny jumping into that icy water.

             "Air Florida Flight 90 was carrying 74 passengers and five crew members when it crashed during the failed takeoff attempt. The aircraft struck the 14th Street Bridge, which carries Interstate 395 between Washington, D.C. and Arlington County. It crushed seven occupied vehicles on the bridge and destroyed 97 feet (30 m) of guard rail[3] before it plunged through the ice into the Potomac River." ( 

What I remember most is the helicopter dropping a rope, attempting to save people from the wreckage.  I watched as they held on anyway they could.  Then it happened.  One lady being rescued dropped the rope.  After numerous attempts by the helicopter to get the rope to the severely injured and temporarily blinded lady failed, Lenny had had enough.  A bystander until this point, he stripped off his coat and dove in the Potomac and swam out to save her.  He succeeded not knowing that all of this was caught on camera.  This act forever defined a hero to me as "one who puts his own safety at risk to save others."  I will tear up anytime I see this footage and at the present time I am having a hard time typing because of this. 

For those of you who know me well, know I am a very private person.  So there it is; a story I've never told.  One that I've kept to myself for almost 30 years.

If you're interested there are two 10 minute "YouTube" videos, chronicling the event as well as a made for TV movie.

I guess the point is, let's save the word "Hero" for those who really deserve it.

This was what was on my mind today.


  1. Sweetest thing I have ever heard. I get all emotional and gooey when I see a man in uniform. Or older men in their dress blues. They served and are serving our country true hero's just like yours :). -K.Ellis

  2. GREAT post. I often find myself wondering the same thing when you ask about heroes. People have a cookie cutter "go-to". It makes perfect sense that it would have to be someone that really moved YOU. I live my life with a policy of "no heroes". I think when people adopt that line of thinking it pushes them to be better. Not that having heroes is wrong, on the contrary it gives you a blueprint for how you would like others to perceive you. I like that some people are motivated to "be" rather than "witness" heroic(s). I think we all have the ability in us to be better today than we were yesterday. Keep the posts comin' Shane! It inspires and provokes thought. God knows we need it these days. -Big Kev