The American essayist, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.”
Two brave young men who faced remarkably similar horrors in different parts of our country, and reacted in the same manner, may fit this bill.
Riley Howell, 21, was an ROTC cadet at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. In late April, he was attending an anthropology class, studying science, technology and society, when he saw a man enter the classroom with a gun for no apparent reason.
Mr. Howell leapt to his feet, ran toward the gunman and tackled him, knocking him off his feet. His instant response didn’t prevent gunshots from being fired, but surely prevented a terrible situation from becoming much, much worse.
Four students were injured in that anthropology class. Two were killed: 19-year-old Ellis “Reed” Parlier and Mr. Howell.
Kendrick Ray Castillo, 18, was a student at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a charter school in Douglas County, Colorado (in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch). He was watching the movie “The Princess Bride” this month with other students in their British literature class. He saw a fellow student arrive late and suddenly pull out a pistol, ordering everyone to stop moving.
One of Mr. Castillo’s friends and classmates, Brendan Bialy, said that even during this period of confusion, Mr. Castillo made a “nonhesitation, immediate jump into action. The gunman was there and then he was against the wall and didn’t know what the hell hit him.”
Several shots were reportedly fired, but Mr. Bialy -- with the help of another student, Joshua Jones -- was able to wrestle the shooter to the ground and take away his weapon.
Mr. Bialy then turned his attention to Mr. Castillo. Unfortunately, he had been shot and was mortally wounded.
“Kendrick Castillo died a legend. He died a trooper. I know he will be with me for the rest of my life,” Mr. Bialy told CNN.
It is important not to pass over the heroic acts of these young men. They saved countless lives.
They weren’t famous. But both acted heroically in the most dire circumstances.