Thursday, April 4, 1996
These heroes just like us, on a good day

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Some days, there's just not much to celebrate. Opening Day? Hardly. Politics? As usual. Spring? Ha. I'm not putting my wool away yet.

So when something really good comes along, my policy is to wallow in it.

Two completely unrelated episodes. Four good boys. Anderson Township teen-agers, Matt Disher and Kris Miller, found $10,000 in cash and returned it. The other boys, Justin Evegan and Donte Ulmer of Walnut Hills, caught a purse snatcher.

Now, I'll get out of the way for a moment (not my usual policy) and let the mother of 14-year-old Matt talk to you directly.

Life of a teen

''Consider a day in the life of a teen for a moment,'' Sharon Disher writes. ''Most get up before the sun. They sit through the equivalent of six to seven hours of back-to-back meetings - classes - where they get a five-minute break in between to go to their lockers, use the bathrooms and fight their way through the maze of high school hallways to their next class, and heaven forbid if they are one second late.

''Talk about pressure.

''They get a whole half-hour for lunch, usually standing in line for 20 of those 30 minutes. Then it's off to a grueling two-hour athletic workout, extracurricular activity and - or to an after-school job, working for minimum wage.

''Tired yet? Their day isn't over. There's at least two or three hours of homework waiting for them. Add to this a mixture of peer pressure, pimples, parents and proms, and it's no wonder we have kids who are a little left of center at times.''

She calls the story of Donte, 15, and Justin, 14, a great and courageous story and hopes that they ''are as warmly embraced by the community and the media as Matt and Kris were.''

From your lips to Dwight Tillery's ears. Wednesday, the Cincinnati councilman arranged for the teens to be honored at City Hall. Their families were there, as were cameras and reporters and bottom feeders such as myself.

It was wonderful. There was hardly room in the aisle for the bandwagon. Heroes everywhere. Bring 'em all on, I say. We've been needing a few.

Tyrone Yates, who had been beat out by Mr. Tillery - ''He got there first,'' an aide told me - recognized yet another hero, 10-year-old Deonjelo St. Clair, who rescued two little kids from a burning building. His blue nylon running suit, which whooshed when he walked to the front of council chambers, was louder than his acceptance speech, which was brief and barely audible.

Not a black and white thing

These are nice kids. You can tell. They didn't play to the cameras or jockey for mike time. I hope Councilman Charles Winburn was taking notes.

Mr. Tillery also recognized Betty Hancock of College Hill, who screamed bloody murder when the man grabbed Carolyn Jones' purse. ''There were probably 20 people standing around, mostly adults,'' Ms. Hancock said. ''Nobody moved but these boys.''

Carolyn Jones, who is in a wheelchair, had just cashed a check for $400, her income for a month. Only $322 was recovered after the contents of her purse were strung over two or three blocks by the purse snatcher, who threw money at Donte and Justin hoping to get them to stop.

She started to cry. So Betty Hancock gave her $40. ''It was all I had.''

This is not, by the way, a black and white thing. Not in any sense. The boys, who are black, jumped to the aid of the victim, who was white, cheered on by Ms. Hancock, also white. I'm told there were people of all colors milling around while these two kids chased the bad guy. Just in case you are curious about such matters.

Michael Hicks, principal of Woodward, where Donte is a student, says he has been getting money and messages for the boys. He's trying to set up a scholarship fund.

''It is a pleasure to honor these people,'' Mayor Roxanne Qualls said. ''They are what this community is all about.''

Thank you, ma'am. We would like to think so.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.