In the world of acts, the urge to help overwhelms

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass reacts to the explosions at Monday's Boston Marathon, calling for vigilance, but not fear. (Posted on: April 15, 2013)

There is the world of acts and there is the world of words. And America saw both the other day when the bombs went off at the finish of the Boston Marathon.

TV broadcasters with too much time to fill and too few facts descended, chattering, into speculation. And a few other media types couldn't resist using the carnage to inflict partisan wounds.

As the dead and wounded were rushed to Boston hospitals, Americans reached for smartphones and computers. We've become a nation on keyboards, desperate to virtually search and connect even in chaos. Perhaps the act of typing makes us feel as if we can control the uncontrollable.

But that's the world of words. The world of acts was much different.

You saw it on video, police, firefighters and paramedics running toward the blast. But also others, civilians, running toward the explosion, desperate to help.

The normal human reaction is to avoid danger. But there they were, first responders and civilians, running into it.

And every firefighter, paramedic and cop I talked to in Chicago on Tuesday — the same men and women who'd be there to help if something bad happened here — said the same thing.

There are those who talk, and those who do.

And those who do run toward trouble.

"Years ago, my very first week out of the academy, we get a call, shots fired on 71st Street," said a veteran beat cop as his partner stood alongside, nodding. "We're hauling ass, all adrenaline, and we pull up and the crowd's running toward us.

"You can hear the pop-pop-pop and people are running away, screaming, hands up, mouths open, and we're running toward them, running through them to get to the shooter. You know what I'm thinking?"

What?

"I'm thinking: Am I (bleeping) crazy or what?

"But that's what we do."

Assistant Deputy Superintendent Howard Lodding runs the Chicago police academy — the Timothy J. O'Connor Education and Training Center — at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd., where future officers are trained.

"It may sound corny, but we're there because we're going to help people," Lodding said.

Lodding said that training helps focus the instinct to help. And that training also involves thinking carefully, and clearly, as they move toward trouble.

For years, police, firefighters and paramedics have known that terrorists often lure first responders with one bomb, only to attack with a second bomb. There were two explosions in Boston.

"I feel that from day one we ingrain in them that they're problem-solvers, and we do run to the problem," Lodding said. "The problem can be a missing child, or someone who just lost their purse, all the way up to a bombing or shots fired. We're going to run to that situation because we've got to help.

"I don't think any of us are heroes, or are braver than the next person," Lodding said. "But with the profession and what we go through and see day in and day out, and how we train them at the academy, that's just in our nature."

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