Aitzaz Hasan, 15, was standing with fellow students outside his school last week in Ibrahimzai, a region of Hangu in north-western Pakistan. They noticed a man approaching wearing a vest laden with explosives. They knew what was about to happen. There were over 2000 children at the school,and Aitzaz told his friends that someone needed to stop the suicide bomber from getting close enough to harm them.
According to witnesses, Aitzaz approached the terrorist, confronted him, and tackled him to keep him from getting any closer.
The suicide bomber detonated his vest, killing himself and the brave boy.
This is by far the shortest biography of any of the Ethics Heroes enshrined here in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor. It is far from the least impressive. This young man, whose life had barely begun, made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others. No one of any age should have to face the choice Aitzaz had; no one should ever have to grow up under conditions that would impose such an ethical challenge on anyone. Yet when the crisis arose, this young man had the courage and values to do what all nations honor soldiers and other heroes for doing to preserve civilization and human life through the centuries: he faced the challenge, put the lives of others before his own, fixed the problem, ended the threat, and died.
My mind is sometimes pulled to unexpected places when I cannot find the words to adequately describe something so remarkable. This time I suddenly recalled a speech from a film that inspired me as a boy of 10, John Wayne’s reverent tribute to the Alamo legend. The film’s many flaws, historical and aesthetic, are undeniable, but I love it even now (I watched the movie again last week, for the first time in decades), as an unapologetic bow to every American, and every human being, who has given up life for a cause they believed in.
Toward the end of the movie, Sam Houston (played by Richard Boone,”Paladin” himself), has just received the last message from the doomed Texan fortification, delivered by the young courier “Smitty,” the historical John William Smith, who, like many Alamo couriers, immediately returned to fight and presumably die with his comrades, though when Smith arrived, it was too late. Moved by the courier’s dedication and courage, Boone as Houston delivers a speech (authored by James Edward Grant) to the officers present at his camp at Washington-on-the Brazos, saying:
“Yesterday, I read you Colonel Fannin’s message telling us he cannot reach the Alamo in time. Today, I have this !… from the Alamo. They are surrounded. And we can’t help them. Now, tomorrow, when your recruits start to whine and bellyache, you tell them… that a hundred and eighty-five of their friends… neighbors… fellow Texicans, are holed up in a crumbling adobe church down on the Rio Bravo, buying them this precious time. I hope they remember. I hope Texas remembers…”
I think it might be a good idea to make certain our children know about the brief but inspiring life of Aitzaz Hasan. When they are complaining about homework, or lousy cafeteria food, or mean teachers, or bullying on Facebook, they should reflect on the challenges he faced, and that so many school children around the world face every day, that render our children’s typical grievances trivial. And we should try to make sure that they remember, as Houston’s fictional speech urged future Texans to remember, that all of us live in a human civilization that must constantly battle the influences of chaos and evil, and that each of us is duty bound to develop the values and character so we will be be ready to do our part to protect that civilization if the time comes, and to know when that time has come. When the time came for Aitzaz Hasan, as young as he was, he was ready.
I hope we remember.
Facts: BBC News