Every once in a while I see something on the news, something so strange that I turn to my hubby and say "If I wrote that, I'd be unable to sell it - it's just unbelievable. No one's going to believe people can act like that, that things can happen like that".
This last week has been full of unbelievable.
Unbelievable people doing unbelievable things far beyond what we can possibly write about, stories of bravery and of friendship and of heroism and of duty which, if put down on paper, would be a feeble attempt to share a reality that has to be experienced.
I give you Jeff Bauman, Jr.
During the initial reporting I received a photo via Twitter, a horrific photo that had me cringing even though I've worked in a hospital and seen Bad Things. It haunted me, this picture of the young man being rushed away in a wheelchair with a man beside him doing something about his legs, a man with a cowboy hat.
You know which image that is. I saw the unedited one, the one showing below Bauman's... well, knees.
When Bauman woke up in the hospital on the worst day of his life he gave a description of the man who dropped a backpack at his feet and turned away.
When I read that I was gobsmacked. Here's a young man in possibly the worst situation one can imagine and his first thought is for others. (There's also a Facebook page for those looking for updates on his condition.)
If I wrote that I'm willing to bet I'd be criticized for making this character unbelievable. After all, WHO could do that sort of thing?
Other than a hero.
And all those other heroes. The wonderful people of Boston who continue to recover and survive and thrive, BostonStrong? The first responders and all those people who ran TO the victims instead of AWAY from the disaster scene. The police who went the distance to track down and apprehend the bombers, taking more casualties in the process.
The first responders in West, Texas who raced to a fire and met their deaths doing their jobs. All of the police and first responders who take the same risks every day without any reward other than getting to go home every night and maybe collect a paycheck.
People will surprise you. People are way more intricate than anything I can possibly put down in words. People are a constant study in insanity and bravery, something as an author I weep at ever being able to describe accurately enough to convey all of the humanity inside.
And you know what?
That's great. That's terrific.
That's so... human.
I love writing about heroes but I'm always so proud when I see something that can't be put into words. Call it the human factor.
We are an amazing species, we is.
And that's hard to put into words.