Written By Galen White
When I mention the word “hero’, you may automatically think of Tarzan, whom I’ve talked about quite often. An imaginary hero is good for childhood development for I learned how to occupy my time by pretending to be him. I fought lions, crocodiles, rhinoceroses, elephants, and other jungle creatures which helped develop youthful muscles and stamina. I ws learning how to use my imagination, as well.
However, you may ask if those are the only things I gained from pretending to be Tarzan. The answer is an emphatic “no”, for there were numerous “life lessons” to be had. For example and perhaps most importantly, I learned that dried out and brittle grape vines always break at the highest point of their swing, and man was not meant to fly without an airplane surrounding him.
Yes, it is true Tarzan was one of my favorite heroes, and it’s also true he was one reason I left such an impression. Unfortunately, the impression I left was in the ground soon after the grape vine I was swinging on snapped!
There were others who occupied hero status in my eyes, though. The others were real people; men and women who walked and talked and led real lives. They had families; they laughed; they cried; they accomplished things; they fought; they suffered; … and they died. Their existence is the reason we enjoy life as we do today.
Recently, I was privileged and honored to visit a place – a revered shrine located on hallowed ground – that triggered emotions of awe and appreciation so much that it was difficult for me to hold back the tears. Even now, as I type these words, it is difficult for me to remain focused, and it would be impossible for me to speak aloud without having my heart enter my throat and choke back the words.
While the time spent on this hallowed ground was short, the impact upon my heart and soul was immense and hasn’t diminished one iota since. As I stood on the very ground that absorbed the blood, sweat, and tears of these brave heroes. I began to imagine the fortitude they had to have possessed. I know this may sound strange, but I would have sworn I could hear and feel the sounds of the battle – the blasts from cannon fire and popping sounds of musket fire; the metal clanking of sword hitting sword; the screams and yells of soldiers locked in deadly turmoil – it suddenly seemed to me so vivid and real.
I began to imagine their fear and dread as they realized how outnumbered and outgunned they were. I was in total awe of how they continued to fight as their enemies breached the meager walls of protection and they recognized their end was imminent. That, my friends, is the precise moment when I began to understand the true meaning and significance of their sacrifice.
This is the instance when my imagination carried me to the year 1836, and briefly placed me in their boots. What would I have done? Would you and I have had the courage to make such a stand as they? As much as I would like to believe we do, I pray we never have to make such a determination. Looking at the results of their bravery and sacrifice today, no one can possibly doubt or question whether or not it was worth their efforts.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the place I refer to is the Alamo, located in San Antonio, Texas and the place where approximately 150 to 200 men -Texian, Tejano and volunteers from numerous states – bravely faced an army estimated to be as many as six thousand trained Mexican soldiers. This small number of men held out for 13 days against General Santa Anna’s army, which clearly proves the metal and caliber of these heroes.
Most all of us are familiar with the names of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis, but there were many others, each and every one a hero. True heroes may be few in numbers, but come from all walks of life; even slavery. One such man was John (last name unknown), a slave as well as an Alamo defender. It has been said that there were other slaves, too, who fought and died during the battle.
The list of Alamo heroes included a couple with the last name of White. My kin, I wonder? Probably not, but I would have been honored if they were. I was honored, however, just to be there as a visitor and to “feel” the surrounding.
As I stood and gazed at the walls and read the plaques scattered throughout the compound remains, I sensed an air of demanded respect. It was almost as if the spirits of the Alamo defenders were watching and waiting to see if modern day visitors realized the significance of the event that took place on those grounds.
In front of the old mission stood a statue dedicated to those who died in the battle, and was erected on the spot where the bodies of the dead defenders were piled upon one another and torched. I cannot begin to describe my feelings when I read that inscription. It was simply another moment when my heart was caught in my throat, and it was with difficulty I held back the tears.
If you remember, I struggled in trying to describe seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. I said at that time one must witness the canyon to fully understand its impact. The same is true with the Alamo. The feeling of being watched by heroes who gave their lives for the independence of Texas is hard to describe and even a bit eerie. But I highly recommend you discover the feeling for yourself. The Alamo is a place I hope you will visit too. Most of all, I hope you feel the same emotions I did.
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.