Hero is an overused word, but Arnaud Beltrame was a hero. This morning in my Easter sermon, I mentioned the heroic sacrifice of Arnaud Beltrame, and each time I told his story, I felt a catch in my throat. From the Washington Post’s account of his death:
Arnaud Beltrame, a French police officer who willingly took the place of a hostage during a standoff with a rampaging gunman Friday in France, died of injuries suffered in the incident early Saturday. His bravery earned him recognition as a hero in a country that has been shaken by a number of terrorist attacks in recent years….
Beltrame lost his life while trying to end a police standoff with a gunman at a supermarket.
Authorities say Redouane Lakdim, 25, hijacked a car Friday near the town of Carcassonne in Aude, killing a passenger and wounding the driver. Lakdim also shot at a group of police officers on their morning jog, wounding one of them. In the nearby town of Trèbes, the gunman then stormed into a supermarket and took hostages.
Beltrame was one of the first officers to respond, authorities said. Police negotiated with Lakdim to release the hostages, and Beltrame offered himself in place of the final one.
I think it’s the considered and deliberate nature of Lieutenant Colonel Beltrame’s sacrifice that I find so striking. It’s not that he rushed in like an action hero, shooting at the killer and losing his life in the process–which would be impressive enough–but that he walked into danger, freely offering himself as a substitute for the hostage.
Greater love hath no man….
On this Easter Sunday, I’m grateful for the martyrdom of Arnaud Beltrame, “of whom the world was not worthy.”
P.S. Lt. Col. Beltrame had a conversion experience as an adult, and was received into the Roman Catholic church. Here is an interesting letter from his priest that was read at his requiem mass.
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