When the final seconds tick off the clock May 24, our nation will bid adieu to its greatest hero. Jack Bauer will end his final day and a chapter in the American story will close.
For eight of the last nine years, Jack Bauer has saved the world from utter destruction on the Fox drama, “24”. The opening season was tagged as “the longest day of his life.” Perhaps it was.
At season’s end, his wife has been murdered and what looked like a triumphant victory over terror turned into a great personal tragedy. It would always be that way for Jack.
In each of the eight days we were let into Jack’s life, he would give a little more and get a little less. Jack’s friends and loved ones would perish as he narrowly escaped danger and saved his fellow citizens from catastrophe.
At the end of the day, quite literally, Jack Bauer always defeated evil. He stopped weapons of mass destruction, assassination attempts, a corrupt president, and even his own death.
Jack was a savvy defender of freedom and even more brilliant at delivering one liners. His name brings fear to terrorists and hope to everyone else. His sense of duty is immeasurable and his bravery and selflessness are unmatched.
Jack lived in a world often criticized by today’s left. In his own way, he responded. When asked if he had any regrets, Jack answered, “I regret my country needs people like me.” When pressed on torture he said, “I know these laws need to be more important than the fifteen people [in danger of a terrorist attack] on the bus. But, my heart couldn’t live with it.”
It was a perfect explanation. It captured the necessity of torture in extreme situations without removing the graveness of it. It was patriotism at its finest. It was humanity at its finest.
Jack Bauer was and still is the hero this country needs. “24” debuted just weeks after 9/11 and helped define an era in our lives we couldn’t really figure out. As a country, we were faced with a crisis of understanding. We didn’t know how to cope with the idea that we may no longer be safe within our borders.
Jack helped us cope. Jack helped us understand and rebuild our sense of security. We slept easy at night because our last line of defense was on the job, 24 hours at a time.
But, there was something more. Jack Bauer was a reluctant hero. He tried to walk away, but when his country called, he couldn’t help but answer. We loved him for that. Reluctance is perhaps the most underrated American virtue. We want to be left to our own devices, but when duty calls, we drop what we’re doing and serve. Washingtonesque is a good way to put it.
So as Jack’s final day ends, this columnist wonders how to say goodbye. He deserves a parade down Main Street, U.S.A. He deserves his picture on the twenty dollar bill. He deserves an airport named after him, but all of the accolades would fall short.
Perhaps the best way to bid farewell to our favorite real-time hero is to honor those who serve on this side of the television screen. Offering our gratitude to America’s real Jack Bauers is the best way to let him know what he’s meant to this country over the last decade.
There will always be a place in our hearts for the hero who kept us safe. Whether he is currently employed by the FBI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa or has spent the last eight years running out of time, we give thanks.
Just as James Bond defined the Cold War, Jack Bauer defined the War on Terror. So, in a ceremonial way, as Jack walks off into the sunset, or exits stage left, or simply blends into a crowd, an era of our lives will close and we’ll take the next step. Ca-chunk. Ca-chunk. Ca-chunk.