Defining a hero is a very individual and personal task.
For Canadians, fortunately, we have been exposed to many people who have fall into such an esteemed and prestigious category. Heroes not only are publicly anointed for their bravery, courage and selfless acts; they provide a beacon of hope to people who need it the most.
In my lifetime, just a touch over the half-century mark, there have been some significant Canadians.
It goes back to my early teens, in late September of 1972, when Paul Henderson scored that epic goal for Team Canada in Moscow. Henderson’s goal gave Canada an overall victory in an eight-game series against Russia and he quickly became a Canadian hero.
Canada needed something to bring us together. Only two years earlier the country was rocked by the well-documented October Crisis when the realization of Quebec separating from Canada heavily loomed.
Henderson’s heroic goal, in my mind, help bring us together again.
Fast forward eight years: 1980. That’s when a brown curly-haired kid with one leg started running across Canada. Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research and care — the very disease which claimed his right leg, and, then his life.
Today, the Terry Fox Run still raises runs and awareness in the vigilant fight against cancer.
Five years later, a good friend of Fox’s wheeled out of a Vancouver shopping centre on a two-and-a-half year journey around the world. Name is Hansen; Rick Hansen.
The paraplegic heightened public awareness for people with disabilities and has raised millions of dollars for spinal cord research. Hansen has been the catalyst of change on a global, national and personal level: giving people, not only those with disabilities, the power to believe in themselves … and in their dreams.
Fox and Hansen weren’t forced to do what they did. They acted because they were compelled to make a difference.
Just like what Kevin Vickers did earlier this week.
Reports now confirm Mr. Vickers is solely responsible for gunning down an armed terrorist who stormed Parliament Hill Wednesday and made his way into the Centre Block.
Mr. Vickers, who has been Sargent at Arms since 2006, drew on his vast 28 years of experience with the RCMP and took charge of a highly dangerous situation.
Thursday, the day after the attack, Mr. Vickers received a thunderous — yet compassionate — standing ovation in the House of Commons for his act.
He was clearly uncomfortable with the praise, but was gratified: a common characteristic of heroes.
Moverover, in a statement Thursday, Mr. Vickers thanked Canadians for their kind words. But then quickly deflected the accolades to the rest of the security team.
Like Mr. Fox and Mr. Hansen, Kevin Vickers will be part of Canadian history and rightly take his place as a national hero.
Our national fabric is unique: we have people who rise to the occasion in so many different levels … in so many situations.
Seeing Mr. Vickers back at work Thursday must have resonated through thousands of Canadians as we took a deep breath after an extraordinary week — and realized we can, indeed, soldier on.
(Cam Tait is the special projects advisor at Challenge Insurance)