Webster’s dictionary defines a hero as a man of extreme admiration and devotion; an illustrative warrior.
It was a cold winter day in Nashville, Tennessee on December 24, 1954. My husband was twenty-five years old. At the time, he worked as a draftsman for The Nashville Bridge Company which happened to be located off the Shelby Street Bridge that spanned the Cumberland River. The temperature that day was 23 degrees and the water was much colder. That morning a lady jumped off that bridge holding her three-month old daughter. Jack and his co-workers observed from their window that a crowd of people were gathering on the bridge and pointing to the water. They raced to the river bank where they saw the lady holding on to a some iron rebarbs that were jutting out of the water. He could hear some people calling from the bridge, “Save the baby.” He saw two bundles in the water and without hesitation or forethought for his own safety, he dove into the icy waters of the Cumberland River and saved the child bringing her to shore. He said he kept praying that he would choose the right bundle, praying the baby would be alive. He kept thinking about his own little baby girl. He would go back into that icy water minutes later when he saw that the lady was losing her grip. He didn’t think of himself as a hero. He simply said that he only had done what anyone would have in his shoes; that God had put him at the right place at the right time. He received many accolades and plaques from Community Service Organizations, the Mayor of Nashville and the Governor of Tennessee which he promptly stored in a box in our basement.
Jack wouldn’t let me put any plaques regarding the river rescue on our walls. He just didn’t want to talk about it. He never told our children about it until they were in their teens and ran across some of his plaques in the basement of our house and asked him about it. Fifty-one years later, his alma mater, The Citadel, would induct him into the prestigious Arland Williams Society. He played the whole thing down and didn’t want to make a big deal about it to his kids. He kept saying if it rained (since it was outdoors at their Friday afternoon review), the whole ceremony would be off. He didn’t want the children to change any of their plans to come. Thankfully, they ignored him and came anyway. The Citadel had a dress parade in his honor and it was a big deal. In the interview with the Charleston television channel, he would say, “It was something that happened in the dark ages. I was just glad that God put me there at the right time. My brother, Britt, is the real hero in our family. He was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam and received many medals for heroism. He’s the one that should be inducted into the Arland Williams Society.”
Someone said to me, they wanted to share a story about the River Rescue with our children so they would know what a hero their Dad was. They already knew that, but not because he rescued anyone. He was my daughter’s hero when he taught her to ride a two-wheel bike at age five or took her to her Father-daughter dance in the sixth grade. He was our son’s hero when he showed him how to snap a football and helped him with calculus. He was a hero when he spent hours teaching our other son who had no depth perception how to catch a ball or took him hunting. He was a football hero on Saturday afternoons when he played for West High School and The Citadel. He was my hero when we married because he made me feel safe and loved. When I broke my ankle in three places, he got a wheelchair and pushed me around the neighborhood so I wouldn’t get cabin fever; he always made sure my gas tank was full. Those were the things that made him my hero. He followed suit when the grandchildren came along. He taught the boys how to play football so they wouldn’t get hurt; he called the trainer at UCLA when one of them hurt his knee to find out where he could get a brace for him; he bought a digital camera so one of the grandchildren with visual problems could see things at a distance; he showed the girls how to ride their bikes in a safe fashion. He constantly looked for ways to benefit his children and grandchildren. They called him Bumpo and he loved the name. He confided in me that it was the best nick name he ever had.
I recall forty years later when “the baby” he rescued called him on the telephone. His eyes misted up as he talked to her. He was happy to hear that her life had been good and that her Mother was still alive. He would’ve never contacted her. He felt as if it may not be something that she wanted to talk about or be reminded of. He had already done his job on that Christmas eve years before. Now it was up to her to make good choices and be God’s blessing. That was one of the things that I loved most about him, his humility and his faith. I am sure he would not approve of me writing this story, but he was my everyday hero and I am glad that we had so many wonderful memories and years together.
Jack was prouder of an essay that our granddaughter, Dani, had written when she was eight years old and won a prize for than any other accolades that he had ever received. His eyes had misted once again when he read it. It was called MY EVERYDAY HERO IS MY GRANPA, JACK KNOX. He framed it and put it in his office.
My Everyday Hero is: Jack Knox (my Grandpa) Jack Knox is my everyday hero. He is fun and safe at the same time. An example of that would be when we go on four mile bike rides, if it starts raining, he will make it shorter so the chances of slipping are smaller.
He is also responsible and organized. For example, if you were to walk into his house, it would be very organized and to show responsibility he knows where everything is.
If he loses a contest or even a game, he will shake your hand and say good game. I think one of the most terrific parts of character is putting others before yourself. He has done many different things to fit into that category. One day it was Christmas Eve. He was working in an office building next to a bridge. He heard crying so he went to see what was the matter. A lady had jumped off a bridge with her baby. So he jumped in the water (not knowing how cold it was and not thinking about himself). He saved the lady and her baby. For those reasons and many more, Jack Knox is my everyday hero. By:Dani Knox
For those reasons and many more, he has always been my family’s everyday hero.