We all dream of becoming heroes. Heroes who go out and touch the world in an extraordinary way. We all dream of being the hero who stands victoriously at the end of the day, people applauding and the person or animal safe and happy. But being a true hero demands much more, it demands that we give much more of ourselves. That we give until the physical and emotional pain are excruciating and then to keep on giving in spite of ourselves. To do the right thing even if it is unpopular.
I have met hero’s like these. On 30 May last year I had been totally overwhelmed as I took this photo. The pain, horror and tiredness visible on the faces of the heroes. They had been struggling the whole day to save these whales but to no avail. They had kept on swimming back to the beach until they were to weak to be saved. The only possible thing left - Euthanasia.
On Saturday, 30 May, the ordeal began around 07:30 as the first false killer whale beached at Kommetjie Beach. More than fifty five would end up on the beach that day. My family and I arrived early that afternoon to find hundreds of people standing on the beach. Some were crying, others were just standing there dumbfounded taking in this emotional scene. Still others were in the sea holding and splashing water on the whales. The guys and girls from NSRI had been everywhere, trying frantically to get the whales back into the sea. Together with my family we went to one of the NSRI members busy with a whale asking how and where we could help. Tired sad eyes looked up at me and said we could help holding the whale.
Standing in the sea holding that beautiful creature, I looked around and saw how people were trying to help, trying to get the whales back into the sea. People so overcome with their own emotions, their own not-understanding. Some of them tried to swim the whales back, ending up in precarious situations where the NSRI members had to leave what they were doing to go and save these persons. Others were so emotional that there were places of hysteria where NSRI members had to take them away.
Looking around me I realised that I was looking at real heroes. People who really love and give themselves to the sea, it’s creatures and people. I saw heroes in the face of pain, heroes I want my kids to emulate. Although it ended in horror for all the outpour of compassion on this day is something that I will always remember.