His name was Arnaud Beltrame. He was 44 years old. He was the first officer on the scene of a supermarket in southern France, where a gunman had taken hostages.
Beltrame asked the gunman to let them go. And the gunman did — except for the woman he was using as a human shield. Beltrame negotiated with the gunman to let the woman go, and offered himself in exchange. He willingly entered the supermarket, willingly gave himself for a stranger, willingly put his life on the line.
He put his live cell phone on a nearby table so his colleagues who surrounded the supermarket would know when to raid the store. After a three-hour standoff, the terrorist stabbed Beltrame and shot him in the neck. When the police heard the gunshot, they raided the store, killed the terrorist, and rushed Beltrame to a nearby hospital, where doctors furiously worked to save his life.
As the doctors worked to save him, Beltrame was conscious. He was talking. He was praying.
He had married his partner Marielle in a civil ceremony in 2016, and they were planning a church wedding in June 2018. From his hospital bed, Beltrame summoned a Catholic priest, who performed the religious marriage of Beltrame and Marielle. Once the priest had administered the sacrament of marriage, he then delivered Beltrame’s last rites.
Beltrame died of his injuries the following morning.
Today, the whole country of France is celebrating this fallen hero. Three former French presidents, as well as the current president, are attending his funeral. President Macron delivered the eulogy and bestowed on Beltrame France’s highest honor: the Legion of Honor award.
Before Arnaud Beltrame offered to take the place of a hostage on Friday, March 23rd, 2018, he was an unknown police officer living in a small town in France. Humbly fulfilling his duty to protect French citizens, faithfully loving his wife.
And now the world knows his name.
Arnaud Beltrame is not a celebrity. He didn’t become world-famous for his Instagram feed or his gym mirror selfies or heated Twitter feuds or porn star scandals or controversial comments.No, Arnaud Beltrame is not a celebrity.
He’s a hero.
He didn’t talk a big game; he lived one.
He didn’t act in his own best interest; he acted in others’.
He didn’t call attention to himself; he studied and trained and fought to be able to protect his fellow citizens.
He didn’t run from danger; he ran into it.
He chose to protect an innocent victim instead of protecting himself. He laid down his life for a woman he’d never met before. Because that’s what heroes do.
Today France mourns and honors and recognizes and celebrates their fallen hero.
In two days, we’ll mourn and honor and recognize another Hero. A man who selflessly laid down his life to save others. A man who let himself be captured and crucified instead of retaliating with violence. A man who gave up the opportunity to be distant and comfortable in order to be with us in the struggles of our lives. A man who died to rescue us.
Because that’s what heroes do.
As we honor the hero and the Hero this week, it’s a humbling reminder that our broken world doesn’t need any more selfish, self-obsessed celebrities. The world needs more selfless, courageous heroes who willingly lay down our lives, in ways big and small, choosing what’s right over what’s expedient, putting others before ourselves, following the narrow way of peace and gentleness and compassion and love in a crazy world that’s waving its guns and demanding its rights.
We’re called not only to love our enemies, but also to lose our lives at their hands if that’s what it takes.
Because that’s what heroes do.