Not all heroes wear capes
The term hero is bandied around a little too much for my liking these days. All too often it’s used to describe sports stars and micro-celebrities. But heroes and heroines do live among us. And they’re not just doctors, nurses, first responders and members of the armed forces.
I have been thinking about the nature of heroism. Most right-minded people will, I think, view those doctors and nurses at the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus as heroes. They’re making a huge personal sacrifice for the greater good and with the promise of precious little financial reward. There is an unspoken nobility in their actions.
Similarly, we each recognise the heroism of those in the armed forces. They protect us from the forces of evil, often making the ultimate sacrifice as they go about their duty. We speak of their bravery, and we award that bravery with medals and public memorials.
Now look at demolition. If a building partially collapses, Joe Public will — justifiably — run away. But demolition men and women will head towards that building with a view to making it safe. When a building burns down, people will flee the scene while fire-fighters and demolition crews make safe the remains of that structure. In the aftermath of an earthquake, while others are evacuated, demolition crews are expected to attend the scene and to once again, risk life and limb to make those quake damaged structures safe.
There are no memorials to those demolition crews, no medal ceremonies. While we all talk of the bravery and nobility of nurses, fire-fighters, police officers, and of those serving in the military, the contribution of those demolition professionals working right alongside them goes largely unnoticed, unrecognised and unheralded.
All of which brings us back, inexorably, to the subject of the Coronavirus. When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced yet again to announce a national lockdown, the questions that followed from the mass ranks of the media were as familiar as they were predictable. What does this mean for hotels, restaurants, gyms? How will this impact the leisure industry? How will it impact the hospitality sector? What about schools and colleges? Will the furlough scheme be extended?
But there was a question that wasn’t asked. A question about an entire sector and its place amidst the COVID-19 response effort. And that unasked question was from the demolition sector. No one asked if demolition workers would once again be viewed as key workers. No one asked if demolition workers would be offered any financial dispensation. No one asked if demolition workers should remain at home. No one suggested a weekly round of applause for those demolition men or women that continue to go about their business in the face of a global pandemic. No one proposed medals on memorials for those demolition men and women that worked selflessly through the first national lockdown; that did so again during the second; and they’re doing so yet again in the third.
Those that work in the medical profession are lauded — rightly — for their willingness to place the needs of others above their own. Those in the military in the police and fire services do likewise and are said to serve the nation.
Demolition men and women — many of whom work willingly in locations and circumstances that will make even those brave first responders think twice — are merely doing a job.
There is a phrase that’s come to encapsulate our feeling towards those on the front line in the battle against COVID-19. “Not all heroes wear capes”. I agree. Some of them wear hard hats.