Surveying heroes

Although Webster and others may have spent painstaking hours defining all the words in their tomes, we can formulate our own definitions for many words based on our experiences. I, for one, associate the word “hero” with a vision of my grandfather saving my leg from the relentless grind of a riding lawnmower blade in my early childhood. Most likely, another person’s definition of hero is quite different. Perhaps it is branded on one’s father, uncle, godparent, sibling, teacher or coworker.

And although there may be many different definitions of hero to the readers of this page, one thing can probably be agreed upon: a hero is someone with courage, diligence and nobility.

This issue of POB highlights many individuals with these traits who have taken on challenging surveying jobs to rebuild, to revisit and to rescue. We hope you enjoy it.

On page 18, you’ll read a story about vital surveying work done at the World Trade Center site in the wake of the September 11th tragedy. Much of the surveying efforts were anything but routine. Despite the obstacles, surveyors aided the recovery process and provided crucial safety for the other workers on the site.

The story on page 22 tells of the heroic efforts of surveyors on the site of a 600-foot collapsed section of the I-40 Bridge in Oklahoma. These outstanding endeavors allowed for speedy reconstruction of the bridge within two months. Beginning on pages 30 and 50, you’ll find reports of the rescue of nine miners thanks to the hard work of some ground surveys and pointed GPS work, perhaps in the nick of time.

“Redrawing the Line” on page 34 tells the story of a group of surveyors in North Carolina who honored some very prominent surveyor heroes of the late 1800s. These men, with their own outstanding qualities, paid tribute to surveying greats of their homeland.

These stories contain elements of intrigue, challenge and hard work by surveyors in this dedicated profession. New technology is often used, but the work of the people is what is to be credited. And although these experiences may be classified as “high-risk” and “extraordinary,” they are stories of courage and industriousness.

Not all workdays include such high profile aspects as these stories do. This does not discount the work done on a standard plot of land, a homeowner’s property or a cell tower. This does not mean that the work done in an “average surveyor’s day” is any less heroic or admirable. A hero—and a heroic action—is whatever you consider it.

After all, my grandfather only saved my leg; he didn’t save the world. But he’s still my hero.

To contact the editor, send an E-mail to or mail to 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 1000, Troy, MI 48084.