The Teenage Heroics of John Howard Griffin
“1. When I was 15, I was taking the El late at night in Chicago. While I was waiting, I saw two very young children, a boy (about 6) and a girl (about 4), walk up to the station on the opposite side of the tracks. They looked around at the empty station, and then the boy jumped down on the tracks and started to pull the girl down with him. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. No one else was on either platform. The train on the opposite side was approaching, about a half mile down the tracks. I jumped down across the tracks, over the rails (particularly the third one) to their side and hoisted them both (unceremoniously) up onto the platform, then jumped up myself before the train arrived. Not Hollywood style, the train was still 100 yards away. Then, I called 911 and waited with them. I went with them to the police station to file the report, and stayed with them for a while afterwards. They never said a word the entire time. They looked so scared. I can still see their faces. I often wonder if they are ok.
2. When I was 17, the football toughs at my school decided to play pick on the nerd. A guy I didn’t really know that well, but who was a quite, academic studying-type. Never did anything bad to anyone. We were outside near the football field enjoying a nice spring day. They destroyed his homework, his clothes, his books, then pushed him down and started kicking and punching him. I launched myself at the leader and took him down (ended up breaking two of his ribs). Got in a few blows before his goons pulled me off. Then, they started on me. Broken jaw. Broken hand. Punctured lung. When I got back to school, I sat at their table for lunch for a week, and let me tell you they didn’t like it one bit. They never apologized.
3. When I was 18, I had started in the the Guardian Angels. Late one night, I was in the front car on the El. Two Latin Kings started messing with a young girl on the train. Everyone else on the train looked away, or got busy with their book. I walked up to them and told them to stop. The big one said “You want some of this, sweetie?” Then, he pulled a gun and shot me in the chest. By the time the EMT got there, I had stopped breathing for several minutes. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective), they got me going again. I still have the shirt with the bullet hole in it.”
John Howard Griffin