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Police Officer, Coach Dennis McNamara This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Ralph Waldo Emerson onceasked, "What is success?" He answered his own question, "To knoweven one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to havesucceeded." I have always believed in this definition of success, and keepEmerson's words tacked to my bedroom wall. Only recently, though, did I realize Ihad the privilege of knowing a true embodiment of this definition.

January30, 2002 was like any other night until the phone rang. When the voice asked formy father, I could sense something was not right. An Upper Darby police officerhad been shot and my father, a captain, rushed out of the house. Noticeablyshaken, he did manage to tell my mother and me on his way out the door,"Dennis McNamara's been shot ... he's in bad shape." My mother and Iwere stunned. All we could do was pray as we waited by the phone. When it rang,our worst fears, not our prayers, were answered.

A week later, I stood inshock and disbelief, again, as Mr. McNamara's horsedrawn casket was driventhrough our town. Thousands lined the streets to watch the procession pass. Grownmen saluted and children waved flags as the casket went by. The services were fitfor royalty, but Mr. McNamara wasn't a prince. He was, however, a hero.

Imet Mr. McNamara when I was five years old. He was my tee-ball coach. Back then Ididn't love the game as much as I do now. His encouragement, however, nurtured mypassion for it. I remember one time when he smiled and congratulated me forthrowing the runner out at first. Plays like this were rare in tee-ball, sincemost of the time the children were too busy playing in the dirt to notice theball.

Twelve years ago, I never would have imagined reaching the point Iam at now. I've been named to two All-Catholic softball teams and one All-Cityteam, and am hoping to play in college. Mr. McNamara used to joke that this wasall due to his tee-ball coaching. Although he was only joking, he was right. Asmy very first coach, he was a hero to me. Where would I be without him? If I hadnever met him, I might be playing softball, but I probably would not have thesame love for it.

To those who knew him, Mr. McNamara was always ahero. That night in January, he became a hero to people who had never even methim. He was killed in the line of duty. He died selflessly protecting hiscommunity. As he was eulogized in the newspaper, thousands of people met the manI already knew. They saw the hero who had stood between them andevil.

Many times, the meaning of success is misconstrued. Wealth, fame,glory; we see these as successes. Mr. McNamara was not rich or famous, nor did heever seek to be. Nevertheless, he was a man who loved his life and, whether heknew it or not, he changed the lives of others. Thousands of lives breathedeasier because he lived. He gave his own life protecting others. So what issuccess?

To be a hero, whether for a group of five-year-oldtee-ball players or for a community of thousands, is to have succeeded.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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