Music Cue: Remembering the Boy Scouts

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Aaron Eilerts, 14; Josh Fennen, 13; Ben Petrzilka, 14; and Sam Thomsen, 13, were killed Wednesday when a tornado collapsed their shelter at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Blencoe, Iowa. NPR's Scott Simon pays tribute.


Tim Russert would understand why the deaths we have to talk about this week are those of four young men who died in Iowa. Sam Thomsen of Omaha, Nebraska was 13. He was adopted when he was just a few weeks old. His parents called his arrival in their lives a miracle. He was a little boy who really had a heart for God.

Josh Fennen of Omaha was also 13. He was a tinkerer and an inventor. His middle school principal says his mind was always working. He was always finding something new to do, something to experiment with.

Aaron Eilerts was 14. His middle school teacher in Eagle Grove, Iowa told the Omaha World Herald he was the kindest person you could ever meet, which is an extraordinary thing to say about a 14-year-old boy. Aaron loved Elvis Presley, sang the National Anthem at sporting events and wanted to learn how to be a chef in France.

Ben Petrzilka of Omaha was also 14. He loved to go fishing with his father and was described by his family priest as a boy who exemplified the Boy Scout oath, which includes the words kind, helpful, courteous, cheerful and brave.

These young men were Boy Scouts that were killed when a tornado churned through the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Blencoe, Iowa on Wednesday. There were 93 scouts from Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota in camp there. Now, it's common in many so-called sophisticated circles to mock Boy Scouts, the use the term to dismiss someone as being earnest to the point of being humorless or not having any of the ordinary human frailties that can make people interesting, or worse, to assume that their Boy Scout courteousness, cheer and sincerity must be some kind of mask.

But when the storm sirens blared, the 93 scouts from Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota apparently reacted with poise and bravery. A scout named Zach Jessen reportedly threw himself over some of the younger, smaller scouts to protect them from lethal debris. When they saw the gray flatten the home of the campground ranger named Nathan Dean, 15-year-old Jesse Rothgeb led a group of scouts to the rubble of the house. They heard cries.

They reached down with their hands and began to pull off bricks, planks, tree limbs and furniture to free Nathan Dean, his wife and their three children. Began to give first aid to the Deans and about 40 scouts who suffered injuries.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver toured the wreckage of the Boy Scout camp and surrounding homes and told reporters these 13- and 14-year-olds were taking care of each other, saving lives. It was miraculous to see that kind of effort from these young men.

The next time you may be inclined to dismiss someone as a Boy Scout, you might remember those real boys who saw people in need and gave them bravely of themselves.

(Soundbite of song, "My Back Pages")

Mr. ROGER MCGUINN (Singer, The Byrds): (Singing) Crimson flames passed through my years rolling high and mighty trapped. Countless violent flaming roads using ideas as my map. We'll meet our legend soon, said I, proud 'neath heated brow. Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

Half wracked prejudice leaped forth, rip down all hate, I screamed. Lies that life is black and white, spoke from my…

SIMON: The Byrds, "My Back Pages." This is NPR News.

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