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U.S. Opinions: Kansas City

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Storm chasers were killed trying to protect others

From an editorial Tuesday in the Kansas City Star:

The brother of one of the storm chasers who died Friday night at the hands of an Oklahoma EF3 tornado said it best: “At the end of the day, he wanted to save lives and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for that.”

Jim Samaras was talking about his brother Tim, who was killed with his son Paul and colleague Carl Young near El Reno. But his description could well apply to countless people who regularly risk their lives to save others – the first responders, the women and men in uniform in our all-volunteer military, the good Samaritans who race to pull drivers from burning cars, the lifeguards who rescue drowning swimmers.

The three storm chasers were paid professionals, and they had devoted many years to their important work of understanding how such killer storms behave. But they did so willingly, knowing there was danger in the sky overhead yet concluding that their work of documenting storms might help protect others over the long run.

Speaking of storm chasers who died, Chris West, the undersheriff of Canadian County, where they were killed, said: “They put themselves in harm’s way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms.”

Their deaths should serve as a reminder that this work ought to be left to highly trained and experienced professionals. It’s clear that even such professionals have no guarantee that they will survive their time in the lion’s den, which means the chances for rank amateurs to chase killer storms and live are much less.

The human will to survive runs deep. That human survival instinct, however, seems not to be limited just to our individual selves but extends to the whole species. So we see firefighters and police officers running into burning buildings to save lives. We see scientists who handle poisonous snakes milking them of their venom so antivenins can be created to protect people.

In a time when we hear so much about the many ways in which people engage in greedy and self-destructive behaviors, the self-sacrificial actions of the dead storm chasers and others testifies to a fundamental human goodness that inspires us all.

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