The True Test – Heroes Among us

By Faye Higbee

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” John Wooden

Heroes live among us every day. They may be wearing a uniform, they may not. They may be male, they may be female…they can save a child from a burning building, they may simply save an animal from drowning, but their instinct is to save others. Such a man was Shannon Johnson, 45, who died in the San Bernardino shootings.

 true test

Shannon Johnson is a hero

An ordinary man who became an extraordinary hero

Shannon Johnson was an “ordinary” man who went to work at the San Bernardino Public health agency every day and found joy in making others laugh. He was described by his girlfriend, Mandy Pifer, as a  “generous, fun-loving soul who very much loved his family and friends.”

On December 2, 2015, he became a “hero.” He paid the highest price for protecting a coworker.

When Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik burst into the Christmas party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and started shooting, Shannon Johnson put his arm around a coworker as they huddled under a table, behind a chair.

He told her, “I got you.”

As he used his body to shield hers, calming her from the terror, he was shot and killed. Denise Peraza will never forget him, nor those three words that saved her life.

What is a hero?

The definition of a hero is someone who is idolized and looked up to.  But that is not always the case. A hero may be forgotten quickly. Their fame, their actions lost in the inevitable march of time, only to be remembered by those whose lives were saved.

“A hero is that silent call in everyone’s heart to do something that would break through the physical and mental prison that holds us, and  acts without thinking of the consequences. That one second in which someone gives themselves to  a higher purpose. A unarmed corpsman in the Marines who runs towards the sound of sniper fire with only a bag full of basic medical support …he knows he will not be able to save his wounded brother in arms, but he runs anyway, putting himself as a shield over his body. These are actions that are never idolized by anyone…and yet these are heroes.” R. Ferran

Training and Action

Those of us who truly believe we are “sheepdogs” will bear that name only in the moment that we are called upon to save one or more of the sheep. Law Enforcement, Military, Firefighters are all trained to do those things.

But what about you…what about citizens like Shannon Johnson? In the moment of terror, in the moment of crisis, that’s when the true nature of a man or woman comes out. Denise Peraza is the only one who saw what Shannon Johnson did – he didn’t do it for fame, or acknowledgment, he simply acted out of caring. Are you that kind of person?

“There is a hero in all of us and you will become that hero when you least expect it.”