When you think of heroes, Superman may come to mind. With superpowers like flying and leaping tall buildings in a single bound, it’s easy for Superman to accomplish heroic deeds.

Did you realize, though, that you can be a hero even if you don’t have any superpowers? It’s true! According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a “hero” is “one that shows great courage.”

The word “hero” comes from the Greek word heros, which means protector or defender. Every day, there are “ordinary” people who act like heroes when they courageously defend or protect others.

On September 11, 2001, thousands of ordinary citizens became heroes in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks that occurred at the World Trade Center in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and outside Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania.

These terrible suicide attacks caused unspeakable damage, as well as thousands of deaths. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including 2,753 victims at the World Trade Center attacks in New York City.

As soon as the attacks occurred, thousands of emergency personnel, including firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and paramedics, responded to the scene to help rescue as many people as possible. Unfortunately, many of these first responders became victims themselves. In total, 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 8 EMTs and paramedics lost their lives on 9/11.

In the days, weeks, and months after the tragic 9/11 attacks, people from around the country came to New York City to volunteer their time and skills in the rescue and clean-up efforts. These volunteers included ironworkers, engineers, heavy machinery operators, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, EMTs, medical workers, and dozens of other types of specialists.

The workers were also aided by the largest deployment of working dogs in U.S. history. Over 400 search and rescue dogs helped to search for survivors, as well as identify those who didn’t survive the terrorist attacks.

Although the 9/11 attacks represent one of the darkest days in U.S. history, the heroic responses of so many regular citizens were remarkable. In a time of great fear and sorrow, thousands and thousands of people set aside their own wants and desires to volunteer their time and skills to help others.

Even though superpowers might make being a hero easier, every day there are people who selflessly volunteer their time and skills — and sometimes even put themselves in harm’s way — to protect and defend others. These everyday heroes might not have superpowers, but they’re still superheroes to those they help.

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