- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

Nobles: The dedicated firefighters who helped stave off a truly tragic summer.Twenty-five thousand people put themselves in the line of fire every year some for the full year, others volunteer. Some of them are paid, others do so of their own accord. Some join for the thrill of helping people, others for the thrill of adventure.

Yet whether smoke-jumpers or seasonal volunteers, they are united in a common cause of fighting fire. Often, they hike long miles under heavy loads, only to face a hard day's labor under sweaty, smoky conditions.

Some of them don't live to see another clear sky above the smoldering embers of another extinguished fire. Already this year, fire-fighting has claimed the lives of nine outstanding individuals, including those of two pilots this week, who collided while attempting to drop fire retardant.

While this year's 57,000 fires have affected nearly 3 million acres, the loss of life and property would have approached truly tragic proportions if not for the cutting, cooling actions of the heroes across the West.

Knaves: The Seattle residents whose callousness provoked a tragic suicide jump.

She might have jumped anyway. After all, the unnamed 26-year-old woman had picked a pretty precarious perch, on the wrong side of a busy freeway bridge railing, 160 feet over a terminal watery landing.

She might have picked a better time to be there. It was rush-hour, and people had places that they couldn't get to, thanks to the terrific traffic tie-up that her personal problems were causing.

She might have even hoped that someone would understand. After all, most of us have been guilty of being young and distraught over a relationship at one point or another in our lives.

They didn't. The monstrous motorists that she was holding up from missions of minor importance began urging her on to a suicidal solution. They began railing, "Jump b*tch, jump," as she clung to the railing. During its live reports, a radio station even began to broadcast the sounds of a splashdown.

She jumped. After about three-and-a-half hours, she threw herself from the bridge. Undoubtedly to her astonishment (and doubtless the disappointment of the drivers above), she survived her 16-story fall.

The crisis over catcalling has roused a Starbucks-laden round of soul-searching in Seattle a former jewel of civility now showing a rough, selfish side.

If Seattle's residents ever stop shaking from self-serving rhetoric (and their shots of triple-mocha espresso), they might well consider the suitable example of the brave firefighters who are this week's Nobles.

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