Editorial: Amid sorrow, we stand in awe of those who step in to save others

  • Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert

    Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert

 

From time to time we use this space to laud and thank those who act solely for the good of others.

The news of this week begs for us to do so again. Amid stories of grief, pain, frustration and danger, we stand in awe of those who seemingly without thought for their own safety step in to try to prevent harm to others.

That instinct is part of everyday life for police officers like Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert. On his way home to his wife and 1-year-old daughter in Highland Park at the end of his shift Saturday, he came across a crash on I-294. Lambert pulled his patrol car into the left lane to protect the drivers from traffic and stepped out into the snow. He was struck by another vehicle.

Lambert, a 34-year-old Army veteran, died hours later. Thousands of people, including police officers from around the nation and Canada, are expected today at his visitation from 2 to 8 p.m. at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington and at a funeral at 10 a.m. Friday at the church.

"Trooper Lambert deliberately placed his vehicle in a position to protect the lives of the victims of the previous crash, and took on the danger himself," Illinois State Police Director Leo P. Schmitz said.

Two other instances of heroism this week had less sorrowful results.

On Monday, Stephen Spapperi, 19, and Justin Mueller, 24, were driving separately on Grace Street in Lombard when both saw another driver had lost control of her car, driven onto the Metra tracks, and gotten stuck. Both went to help and were quickly joined by police Officer Dan Herrera.

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They helped the 96-year-old driver out of the car, but saw a train coming. Spapperi picked up the woman and, aided by the other two, rushed to get away as the train hit her car.

"I truly believe that they helped save a life this day," police Chief Roy Newton said while praising the trio.

Also on Monday, DuPage County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Obrochta's "immediate, decisive action" helped save about 30 dogs from a burning kennel near West Chicago, where another 31 dogs were killed.

Obrochta raced into the burning kennel, freeing dogs and burning his hands in the process. Even as the inferno forced him to retreat, he grabbed a cage containing a large dog and carried it outside with him.

"He took some personal risk to himself to save these animals, and I just think he did a great job," DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said.

While joining with those who mourn Lambert, we also recall the words of the late Fred Rogers, the reassuring host of TV's "Mister Rogers Neighborhood." Amid sobering news, he advised, "Look for the helpers."

We looked, and we feel fortunate to have had these helpers among us.

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