These are the people who make a place special. They are the kind of people who cause you to stop and marvel at the selflessness humans are capable of. And they are a welcome antidote to the cynicism and divisions that too often characterize daily life in 2013.
Some call them heroes, although they don’t see themselves that way. But they went out of their way, each at some risk, to save the lives of others. If that’s not heroic, then we need a new word to describe what they did.
On Oct. 16, Carmen Pierce Lowe, her husband, Robert, neighbor Jack Pirowski and his son Zach combined to rescue babies and adults from a burning apartment building in Lackawanna. Carmen caught babies that frightened parents dropped to her from a second-floor window while the men combined to catch adults jumping into their open arms. Zachary, 19, ran to get a ladder to rescue those who were reluctant to jump. Everyone got out safely.
Just two days later, Darnell Barton was driving his bus route for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority when he saw a young woman who had climbed over the railing on a bridge over the Scajaquada Expressway and was clearly contemplating jumping.
Barton stopped his bus, which was carrying 20 McKinley High School students. He called out to the woman and reported the situation to his dispatcher. But the full gravity of the matter struck him, he said, when a weeping student aboard his bus said: “I don’t want to see someone die.”
At that point, Barton left his bus and approached the woman. When he got within a few steps, he lunged and wrapped his left arm around her, asking “Do you want to come on this side of the guard rail now?” She agreed and, with that, her life was saved.
Barton could have driven on. In fact, he saw pedestrians and a bicyclist pass on by, either without noticing or without caring. He stopped his bus and made a difference. So did the neighbors on Center Street in Lackawanna.
It’s not that these are the only kind souls in Buffalo. People here, and around the country, make a difference in someone’s life daily, often without notice. But it’s worth pausing to notice whenever we can. It’s good to remember that people such as these are around us.
The Lowes and Pirowskis were named Erie County Citizens of the Month and received state and city proclamations.
The world has certainly noticed Barton. News of his actions quickly circled the globe. News media from Buffalo to Britain picked up on this story. A local reader has offered him dinner for four at Chef’s and Sabres tickets. A woman in Texas wants to send him money. Cub Scouts in North Tonawanda are raising money to reward him.
Barton must be puzzled by it all. He praised the crisis counselor who stopped to help and the students on his bus who applauded him, and said he hoped the incident would help bolster the image of his fellow bus drivers.
Like his colleagues of the spirit in Lackawanna, he just did what anyone would do. Or so they all say.