To the point

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SOMETIMES WE FAIL TO SEE HEROISM because it doesn’t fit into the image that we have of it. Even though feats of valor and bravery are right in front of us, there are times when we miss it because we are dealing with other details.

Last week, the Switzerland County community was shaken by the news of the armed robbery that took place at Markland Shell. Because we live in what we would like to believe is a “quiet little community”, news of events like this one hit many people hard.

Because this is a small community, it is also one that knows everyone and cares for everyone – and wants to know every last detail about what happened and who it happened to.

That was the case last week, because as each of us scrambled to get the “latest and greatest” details about the robbery, we missed the fact that for four people – it wasn’t just some story.

They lived it.

All four of the people in the station that evening – James Dobbs, Susan Johnson, Kendall Otter, and Calen Otter – have all had to live and relive the details of that night over and over again as each of us ask for more details and information. Sometimes we are guilty of seeing actual events much like we watch a television show; but the robbery at Markland Shell was very real and very dangerous for everyone who was involved.

Although all four showed great courage under stress; I believe that it’s important to take special note of the actions of the two Otter brothers during the entire episode.

Calen Otter put his own life in peril when he escaped and ran to the front of the store to find a phone and call for help. He showed tremendous maturity as his quick actions got law enforcement officers to the scene quickly – which eventually led to the capture of the criminal.

Remember, Calen Otter is just 14 years old.

Kendall Otter had already shown maturity in being able to work in the family store and take on the responsibilities that go with having a job. Just 16 years old, he was calm and cool during the entire episode, and on at least two occasions he had the chance to run from the criminal, but knew that his running might put the lives of his friends in jeopardy.

So he did exactly what he was told to do.

Which is what any of us should do, too.

When I spoke with Susan Johnson, she spoke of how Kendall Otter carried the store safe from the office to the back parking lot by himself. She spoke of how his concern was for her safety; and of how he cooperated with the criminal to the point of being taken as a hostage rather than see others put in harm’s way.

After such a harrowing experience, most of us would want to find a way to put it all behind us. Talking about it over and over and over again wouldn’t be something that we’d want to do; but these boys along with the two adults involved have been asked to tell and retell the story – and in doing so, they’ve had to relive it.

What we really need to tell them is how proud of them we are.

They are heroes, as are James Dobbs and Susan Johnson. They did what many of us wouldn’t be able to do when faced with the same circumstances – no matter how old we are.

As a community, we should let them heal in their own ways, but we should also recognize the heroism that each displayed.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate the Switzerland County School Corporation on a decision that shows not all priorities are out of line in all corners of the state.

Next week our children will be taking the ISTEP state exam and the GQE graduation exam. The scores that our children record will determine funding and other programs that will be made available to our students; and in the case of the GQE – it determines whether or not they are allowed to graduate.

In the past school officials have talked with parents about the importance of each child getting sufficient rest and eating balanced meals and going through a time of preparation so that they could achieve to their highest potential on the tests.

But then we’ve had school athletes traveling all over the area to compete in sporting events, and many times by the time they get back and off of the bus and to their homes, they’re actually getting less sleep than normal.

But not this year.

The schools have suspended all athletic events next week other than practices. This is so the students can get home and get fed and get some rest and be prepared for the testing.

In a world where sports is king; it’s wonderful to see that Switzerland County schools also realize the importance of student achievement in the classroom – not just on the field.