DEAR READERS: I published a letter (June 6) in which a reader, "Alison in Ashland, Ore.," asked you to name your heroes. She asked that they not be celebrities or family members. A tsunami of emails descended upon me -- many of them moving, thought-provoking and inspiring. I'm sorry that space limitations prevent me from printing more of them -- but I thank you ALL for your submissions. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger! A humble man, under intense pressure, who saved the lives of his entire U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009. After landing his Airbus in the Hudson River, he refused to leave his ship until all passengers and crew had disembarked. THAT is a true hero, someone going about his daily routine and doing something extraordinary. -- PAMELA F., SLINGERLANDS, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: I'm nominating two people: Stephen Hawking, who has overcome disastrous physical and medical problems to become the world's most prominent physicist, and Gustavo Dudamel, who has brought intense life to the L.A. Philharmonic and the renewal of symphonic music in general, having lifted to new heights Venezuela's "The Program," which gives all students in that country the opportunity to make music. -- NANCY E., OAK RIDGE, TENN.
DEAR ABBY: My personal hero is Rosa Parks. I grew up in a racist household and was even beaten for disagreeing. But the courage it took for Rosa to sit down and refuse to get up moved mountains for me. I thank her with all my heart. -- KENDRA IN HAIKU, HAWAII
DEAR ABBY: My definition of hero has long been the man who stood in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square. As a teenager I watched in awe at his strength of character and heart. In that moment he showed us what the world could be if we, too, chose to stand up. -- EMILY F., SAN JOSE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: It's Miep Gies, one of the women who helped hide Anne Frank and her family. She didn't hesitate before saying "of course!" when asked for help, and when asked years after WWII, she said she would do it again in a heartbeat because it was the right thing to do.
As an LGBT and AIDS activist, I'm often asked why I do what I do if it doesn't affect me directly. I do it because it's the right thing. To me, if more people thought like Mrs. Gies, this world would be a much better place to live, so I try to remember her in everything I do. -- ALESS P., DARTMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA
DEAR ABBY: My hero is Cesar Chavez. Before he came along, workers didn't even have a place to relieve themselves while working the fields under all weather conditions. He sacrificed his own health and his life to help their plight.
I read in our local newspaper where somebody referred to him as an illegal alien, although he was born in Arizona and served in the U.S. Navy. If that doesn't make someone an American, nothing will. -- ARTHUR IN BARSTOW, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: I nominate Florence Nightingale. Despite familial and societal objections to her work, she made nursing care a respected, effectual profession that continues to benefit humankind. Women of her generation were seen as inferior, capable only of servitude; she showed nurses' work to be much more than a harmless presence among the suffering. Now THAT's a positive role model for our youth to emulate. -- STEPHANIE L., R.N. IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR ABBY: Who are my heroes? My vote goes to the Navy SEALs who killed Bin Laden! -- MARILYN W., KNOXVILLE, TENN.
READERS: Stay tuned. I'll print more of your submissions tomorrow.