Originally published in Common Ground Magazine, Washington, D.C. 2010
Humble Hero Heralded
By Mary Jacoby Hastings
The February day started out like any other. Parents and grandparents dropped off children at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colo., as buses pulled in unloading sleepy students. Everything appeared to be business as usual.
However, as students left school that afternoon, their friendly banter was interrupted by gunfire followed by screams as they ran from a man with a high-powered rifle.
Out of the chaos arose a hero in the making. While others were running away, David Benke, a math teacher who was on parking lot duty, charged the gunman.
Two gunshots rang out before Benke pinned the perpetrator to the ground with the help of an astute bus driver, whose children attend the school. An assistant principal ran to the scene and kicked the rifle out of the shooter’s reach.
Before it was all over, one student lay bleeding with a gunshot wound to the stomach. Another student’s arm was grazed by the bullets.
“Can this really be happening again?” asked shocked witnesses. Columbine High School is just a few miles away. This was too close to that site where one fateful day in 1999 two teenage gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher. So many innocent lives were lost. While both Deer Creek students recovered physically, the entire community was shaken to the core once again.
Benke was immediately hailed as a hero and thrust into a media frenzy. The incident garnered national attention. Benke had potentially saved the lives of many children. But he doesn’t consider himself a hero for what he did. He was humbled by the attention.
His neighbors in the Ken-Caryl Ranch community, who, like Benke, are members of the Ken-Caryl Ranch Master Association, opened a bank account to collect contributions for a college fund for Benke’s children. A car dealer gave Benke a new vehicle to replace the older car he had been struggling to keep running. Thank-you cards, messages of praise and colorful posters from children at other schools near and far wrapped Benke in a blanket of gratitude.
Ken-Caryl Ranch is home to many amazing individuals—some famous for their athletic accomplishments, others for publishing bestsellers, a few for drawing large crowds to their concerts and now one humble hero who showed us what courage really means.